The White House held its first public coronavirus task force briefing in almost two months. With cases rapidly rising around the country, Donald Trump didn’t appear, instead, the vice president was left to steer the ship. Mike Pence appeared at times frustrated, hesitant, and even bewildered by some of his own statements. For instance, when he was asked whether Trump’s recent rallies were a good idea, Pence struggled to answer saying “freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the Constitution.”
Pence has no real answer at all for these questions
"In Arizona, one of the hardest-hit states, you packed a church with young people who weren't wearing masks. So how can you say that the campaign is not part of the problem that Dr. Fauci laid out?" pic.twitter.com/2Lal6nQCqo
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) June 26, 2020
When Pence was at the podium, it sure felt like he was there not to inform, but rather to do damage control. Or as The New York Times writes “even as cases spike around the country, Mr. Pence tried to take a victory lap, asserting, ‘We slowed the spread, we flattened the curve, we saved lives.'”
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) June 26, 2020
He went on to say:
Half of new cases are affecting Americans younger than 35, which Mr. Pence described as “good news,” because younger Americans are less likely to fall seriously ill. However, Dr. Fauci has noted that the nation must not be sanguine about infections in young people, because some do suffer serious effects.
And when asked whether he expected the death toll to rise much in the coming weeks, instead of citing scientific data, he said, “our hope and our prayer is it’s not the case.”
Pence, in coronavirus task force briefing, urged Americans three times to pray. He did not urge Americans to wear masks
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) June 26, 2020
During the briefing, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci took a very different approach urging people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“You have an individual responsibility to yourself but you have a societal responsibility because if we want to end this outbreak, really end it and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and put as a nail in the coffin, we’ve got to realize that we are part of the process.”
CDC Director Robert Redfield also stressed the importance of wearing a mask.
CDC chief Redfield: It’s our responsibility “to recommit ourselves” to staying six feet apart, “to wear face coverings when we’re in public,” and to wash our hands.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) June 26, 2020
Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, first one in 2 months, ran about 75 minutes, mostly statements by Pence, Birx, Fauci, Azar and Redfield. About 15 minutes of press questions. "We’ll be back with more information as time goes on,” said VP as he led Task Force off the stage. pic.twitter.com/TsRZHMdKrX
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 26, 2020
*This post contains opinion and analysis