The latest pandemic team press conference at The White House took many forms across its 90 minutes. Donald Trump controlled the main podium on Sunday, with a far smaller group backing him up than Americans have typically gotten used to seeing.
Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and FEMA administrator Peter T. Gaynor, Trump took the stage and talked about unrelated actions that had been taken to rescue Americans around the globe. It was a confusing moment but Trump soon brought it to the topic of the coronavirus and the current state of the U.S. response to the pandemic.
Who is this Woman that was rescued? pic.twitter.com/HLc3pLp8Tx— Karli Q ⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Text TRUMP to 88022 (@KarluskaP) March 22, 2020
Trump addressed his utilization of the Defense Production Act and how his administration has ramped up efforts to get medical supplies to states in need while also authorizing increased National Guard support in New York, California, and Washington.
"Through FEMA, the federal government will be funding 100 percent of the cost of deploying National Guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus, while those governors remain in command," Trump said to start off the press conference.
A Strong Start
Mike Pence: "We can slow the spread. We can protect the most vulnerable and we can heal our land. So let's do it America."
Trump and Pence trying hard to emulate Andrew Cuomo during his press conferences but not clearing the bar...— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 22, 2020
Many were ready to mark the change of tone for Trump to start the press event as refreshing. It was the president doing and saying things that many felt a president would be saying. He even provided a clear answer to the question asked by NBC News' Peter Alexander on Friday.
The president was on the mark and seemed to follow the script apart from a few references to the "Chinese virus."
Still, this didn't last long. After Vice President Pence and FEMA spoke during the press conference, Trump took control and began to take questions from the press corps. After being asked about his thoughts on Rand Paul testing positive for coronavirus and the decision by others to self-quarantine, specifically Mitt Romney.
This prompted what some are calling a sarcastic remark by Trump toward Romney.
Classic example of President Trump.
Trump speaking at the beginning of this press conference with prepared remarks: "No American is alone as long as we're united."
A few minutes later, Trump, speaking without prepared remarks: “Romney’s in isolation? Geeeeee - that’s too bad.”— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 22, 2020
"I'm a little upset with China, I'll be honest with you," Trump says, adding that as much as he admires the country and Xi, "They should have told us about this." Says they refused USA help out of pride.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) March 22, 2020
The president also created quite a mixed message on China and its role in the global pandemic. While he continued to ramp up the blame for the nation with his naming of the virus, Trump also praised President Xi and China for their efforts against the virus.
He then quickly changed direction again later in the presser, questioning why China didn't warn the world about the virus ahead of time.
REPORTER: Your administration eliminated a key position in China in July -- a medical epidemiologist embedded in China's disease control agency. Why did you do that?
TRUMP: "Well, I could ask, uh, anybody ... do you want to take that one Bob?" pic.twitter.com/u4VSYZqrmh— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 22, 2020
Stocks and Bailouts
Actually, his financial disclosure forms showed that he owned at least $61,000,000 in stocks back in 2016- so that is a clear lie: https://t.co/M8uG7X859t— Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) March 22, 2020
Another question that sent President Trump into a jumble of words and thoughts involved stocks owned by the president and if he did similar actions as the members of Congress who reportedly moved stock funds after a classified briefing on the coronavirus.
At press conference that’s supposed to be about the Coronavirus pandemic, Trump laments how much money he’s lost as president: “I think it’s very hard for rich people to run for office.”— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) March 22, 2020
Trump noted that he didn't own stocks, he just owned things. But it quickly devolved into a confusing statement on his campaign for president.
It is safe to say quite a few people were very confused by some of what Trump was saying. There was also a lot of surprise about the president using a pandemic update press conference as a way to talk about his candidacy for president.
I hate how Trump goes into the press conferences talking about how he *feels* like the vaccine they’re trying will work. Who cares how he feels about it? It’s science. Either it works or it doesn’t. His gut sense that it will work is completely irrelevant.— Touré (@Toure) March 22, 2020
The mixed messages sent by Trump have eroded his trust with some people watching from home. The presence of Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has offered direct contradictions to the president's words on stage. His absence from the events is typically noted by people online.
These briefings now run an average of 90 minutes -- about the length of a Trump rally. Imagine that!— Katie Rogers (@katierogers) March 22, 2020
While the president means well or is trying to be hopeful, the mixed messages are leaving a few struggling.
There will be another press conference tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what changes.