WASHINGTON — President Trump held a news conference on Wednesday evening where he discussed his administration’s response to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the White House’s coronavirus task force and said the risk to Americans is “very low.”
Elements of the response outlined by Trump mirror things he specifically criticized President Barack Obama for during the ebola outbreak in 2014. Yahoo News asked Trump about this contradiction and he argued the coronavirus epidemic is “a much different problem than ebola.”
Trump sent nearly 50 tweets and made multiple media appearances criticizing Obama’s handling of the ebola outbreak in 2014. Among other things, Trump called for a “full travel ban” from affected regions and labeled Obama a “stubborn dope” for not implementing one.
Trump also said it was a “TOTAL JOKE” for Obama to have Ron Klain, a political operative and lawyer, serve as the “ebola czar” since Klain had “zero experience in the medical area and zero experience in infectious disease control.” Yet as he faces the coronavirus, Trump is not calling for a travel ban and he has tapped Pence, who does not have medical experience.
“This is a much different problem than ebola,” Trump said when asked about the apparent contradictions. “Ebola you disintegrated. Especially at the beginning. They’ve made a lot of progress now in ebola, but with ebola … you disintegrated. You got ebola, that was it. This one is different, much different. This is a flu. This is like a flu.”
“We can now treat ebola. … At that time it was infectious and you couldn’t treat it,” Trump said. “Nobody knew anything about it. Nobody had ever heard of anything like this, so it’s a much different situation.”
Pence cited his experience as governor of Indiana as valuable preparation for his role.
“As a former governor from the state where the first MERS case emerged in 2014,” Pence said, referring to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, “I know full well the importance of presidential leadership, the importance of administration leadership, and the vital role of partnerships of state and local governments, and health authorities in responding to potential threats and dangerous infectious diseases.”
During Pence’s time in Indiana, there was an HIV outbreak in which more than 200 people were infected. A 2018 study from the Yale School of Public Health faulted the state’s “belated response” and suggested it led to four times the infections that could have occurred with a more proactive approach.
Yahoo News tried to ask Pence about the HIV outbreak at the White House news conference. He did not respond to the question.