On Friday afternoon, Donald Trump held yet another press conference with the White House Coronavirus Task Force — the third time this week — to discuss the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak. While taking questions from the press after sharing his 15-day plan to slow the spread, the president severely criticized an NBC News correspondent as a "terrible reporter" after he had asked the former reality star turned world leader in civil terms to share a message for the public, currently fearing the pandemic.
The question also comes just hours off the news via NBC that the network had lost one of its own, audio technician, Larry Edgeworth, after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump's latest outburst and criticism of reporter, Peter Alexander, comes after the president seemingly attempted to minimize fears of the American public through an announcement with several optimistic updates about drug therapies for coronavirus. However, that was later debunked by one of his own government scientists per NBC News, who said they were not at all proven at the moment.
Q: What do you say to Americans who are scared
TRUMP: "I say that you're a terrible reporter, that's what I say."
Unreal. pic.twitter.com/RJ1aJXJUUh— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) March 20, 2020
During the briefing, Trump's director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated that any evidence reported about drug therapies in testing mode at the moment is all strictly "anecdotal" and not the product of a "clinical trial." Fauci added that no one can "make any definitive statement about it" right now. Nonetheless, Trump said he felt "good" about the test treatments and disclosed that the federal government had already ordered "millions of units" of them.
It was at this point that Alexander asked Trump whether his "positive spin" regarding the potential treatments was giving Americans false hope: "No I don't think so," Trump replied. "It may work, it may not work, [but] I feel good about. That's all it is, it's a feeling."
Alexander followed up by asking Trump to talk directly to Americans scared by the pandemic right now, many of whom are practicing social distancing per his guidance and holed up in their homes. The questioning seemingly triggered the president, who replied with an insult.
"What do you say to Americans who are scared, millions who are scared right now?" Alexander asked.
"I say that you're a terrible reporter," Trump said. "That's what I say. I think that's a very nasty question. You're doing sensationalism."
The moment stirred up a vibrant response among social media, including many reporters and Twitter users who were stunned at the reply as coronavirus has now spread across the U.S. with more than 19,000 confirmed cases, and 210 deaths as of this writing per the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center map.
"Trump's response here is particularly heinous considering one of Alexander's colleagues, an audio technician who was beloved at NBC, just died from the virus yesterday," wrote former Rolling Stone and EW editor, Erika Berlin.
"The crazy thing is, it's such a softball question. It gives him the opportunity to comfort those who are afraid and this is how he reacts?!" wrote one user.
NBC’s @PeterAlexander invites Trump to express empathy for Americans who are frightened
Trump erupts in anger— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 20, 2020
This is a truly god awful response from the president, but oh my gosh this screen grab is great pic.twitter.com/a4nHrjbtBQ— 𝕃𝕖𝕒𝕙 𝕃𝕒𝕟𝕖 🚀 (@get_leah) March 20, 2020
"Peter Alexander throws [Donald Trump] a softball question. trump could have so easily acted presidential. Instead he embarrasses himself with a rage filled whiff!" another user wrote.
"Peter should take this as a compliment it means his reporting is being spot on!!! Keep up the good work and keep your foot on this guy neck so we can get the truth," wrote another user.
When CNN reporter, Kaitlin Collins inquired with the president if attacking her peer and his network was appropriate given the country is "going through a crisis," Trump continued calling out the NBC reporter as a "not a good journalist."
Trump continues to go off on Alexander, saying he's "not a good journalist," among other things. pic.twitter.com/SdA6zwS4r8— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) March 20, 2020
Shortly after the press conference, Alexander took to Twitter to share with viewers and concerned Americans that while he offered both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence the opportunity to reassure Americans, Pence responded very differently from the president, assuring citizens: "Don't be afraid. Be vigilant."
Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images