Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar largely punted on Sunday when confronted by CNN anchor Jake Tapper over presidential son Eric Trump’s insane claim that the coronavirus will “magically” disappear after Election Day.
In an interview with pro-Trump Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday night, Eric Trump dove down a conspiratorial rabbit hole while talking about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Claiming Biden “loves” the pandemic because it prevents him from making “horrible blunders” on the campaign trail, the president’s son suggested stay-at-home orders were aimed at shutting down his father’s campaign.
“They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time,” he exclaimed before claiming Democrats will “milk it every single day between now” and the election.
“And guess what? After Nov. 3, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen,” Trump added about a virus that has killed nearly 90,000 Americans.
At the end of a somewhat tense interview about the administration’s coronavirus response on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper brought up Eric Trump’s remarks, noting that there is a “lot of disinformation” out there on the deadly disease.
“Last night on cable, someone said that the shutdowns that the states have taken, the governors, are just an effort to hurt President Trump by preventing him from holding rallies,” the CNN anchor said. “The same person said the day after the election, the virus will disappear. I know you know that’s not true. What’s your response to that?”
Azar spoke of the need for “balanced information” as public health leaders present facts to allow states to reopen businesses and public spaces before taking a both-sides approach to Eric Trump’s conspiracy theorizing.
“I think hyperbolic rhetoric on any side is not appropriate,” Azar declared. “These aren’t partisan issues. This is just health and economic welfare for our citizens.”
Tapper, meanwhile, pressed the HHS chief to give a more direct refutation of the baseless allegations that the president’s critics are using the virus to inflict political damage on Trump.
“But you would agree that governors did not take these steps to shut down their states because they were trying to hurt President Trump,” the State of the Union host wondered aloud. “They were trying to protect the lives of their citizens.”
“I find that it’s better not to try to impugn individuals’ motives,” Azar replied, again not directly addressing Eric Trump’s remarks. “The president, the vice president, and I have had a superb working relationship with the governors across this country, whether red state or blue state. We’ve all been working in partnership to help the American people and we’re going to keep doing that.”
Prior to being pressed on the president’s kid appearing to say the virus is a hoax, Azar found himself in a somewhat heated back-and-forth with Tapper for suggesting America’s high coronavirus death toll was due to American citizens’ overall poor health.
After the CNN host chastised Azar for seemingly celebrating the administration’s response despite the high number of casualties, the HHS secretary insisted that “the American population is very diverse and it is a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities" to explain away the death toll.
Providing Azar an opportunity to clean up his response because it sounded like the HHS chief was saying “the reason there are so many dead Americans is because we’re unhealthier than the rest of the world,” Tapper took issue with Azar laying the blame on the American people for them dying from the virus.
“That doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the American people when the administration didn’t take adequate steps if February,” Tapper shot back after the HHS secretary continued to cite co-morbidities for the rising death count.