Illustration for article titled Watch Pandemic Expert Mike Pence BS His Way Through a Coronavirus Interview
Screenshot: NBC

If Vice President Mike Pence intended to exert some damage control following President Trump’s controversial European travel ban and a stock market free-fall, he had a hell of a way of doing it. It turns out that even Pence’s measured calm cannot overcome the amateur antics of the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus.

In an interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie, Pence made it clear that coronavirus is more fatal than the seasonal flu. But he largely skirted any acknowledgment that the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus has been less than ideal. When prompted to respond to estimates suggesting that one-third of Americans could contract coronavirus in the United States, Pence demurred.

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“I’m looking for a number if you have it,” Guthrie said.

In response, Pence said, “Well, let me be clear that from early on, the president has declared a public health emergency, suspended all travel from China, we limited travel and issued advisories for portions of Italy and South Korea—”

“Yes, but on the number—”

“—And now the suspension of travel from Europe precisely for the reason that we know there will be thousands more cases of coronavirus.”

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Thousands or millions?”

“Well I—” Pence sighed. “I’ll leave it to the experts to make the estimates of how many people may be infected.”

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Well, Congress’s in-house doctor, Brian Monahan, suspects 70 to 150 million Americans will contract coronavirus, per Axios. Millions, not thousands. That Pence was unwilling to be frank about the numbers is exactly what we should expect from a guy who watched an HIV epidemic run wild in Indiana while he was governor.

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Pence was also reluctant to give a satisfying answer as to why the United States rejected coronavirus testing that 60 other countries accepted from the World Health Organization.

“South Korea, whose onset was roughly around the same time as the U.S., is testing roughly 15,000 people a day, and says it has tested more than 100,000 people overall,” said Guthrie. “Every indication is that the U.S. has not tested near that number of people. Why not?”

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Pence said that they’ve begun to make changes to the “testing issue” to make testing more accessible, noting that “every state lab in America can do testing now” as well as many university labs.

“We think the key, Savannah, is going to be commercial laboratories like Labcorp and Quest who are already spinning up production at the president’s direction last week on tests that can be available on a broad basis for the American people,” Pence said.

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Guthrie asked whether there was a lag time for testing in the U.S. given the fact that the United States rejected the World Health Organization’s coronavirus test in February so they could, instead, develop their own. “Was it a mistake to not just take that WHO test,” she asked, “while we waited to develop our own test so that the testing could ramp up earlier?”

“It’s a fair question,” Pence responded, before referencing Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who allegedly said that that’s just not how they do it in the U.S. It’s a sentiment that Pence, clearly, agrees with.

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Pence continued. “Frankly, we’re the world leader in infectious diseases. Our CDC and then our FDA produce and approve tests through our incredible healthcare system in this country.”

Nice to know that the Trump administration is going to “USA! USA! USA!” all of us to the grave.

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.

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