House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rips up her copy of President Trump’s speech as he concludes his State of the Union address on February 4, 2020. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden suggested on Thursday night that President Trump had said nothing about the emerging coronavirus outbreak during his State of the Union address early this year.
During a CNN town hall in Pennsylvania, Biden contrasted Trump’s response to the crisis to his own, implying that he had been way out ahead of the president.
“He knew about it, he knew the detail of it, he knew it in clear terms,” he said of Trump.
“Imagine had he at the State of the Union stood up and said – when back in January I wrote an article for USA Today saying we’ve got a pandem— we’ve got a real problem. Imagine if he had said something. How many more people would be alive?”
Trump did, in fact, refer to the coronavirus outbreak in his February 4 State of the Union address.
“Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases,” he said. “We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China. My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”
It would take three more Democratic presidential debates after the SOTU before Biden – apparently for the first time publicly on the campaign trail – addressed the epidemic, after a moderator at the February 25 debate in Charleston, S.C. raised the issue.
As Biden noted at Thursday’s town hall, he did pen an op-ed for USA Today in late January. In it he touted the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014-15, and expressed concern “that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.”
A partial timeline of the relevant period follows:
Jan. 14: At a Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, neither Biden nor any other candidate raises the coronavirus issue.
(World Health Organization reports 41 cases and one death in Wuhan, and one exported case, in Thailand)
Jan. 27: Biden pens USA Today op-ed arguing that the administration’s public health policies have left the U.S. “unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.”
(WHO reports 4,537 cases and 106 deaths in China, and 56 cases outside of China, including five in the U.S.)
Jan 29: A chartered flight lands in southern California carrying State Department officials and other U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, the outbreak epicenter.
(WHO reports 7,736 cases and 170 deaths in China, and 82 cases outside of China, including five in the U.S.)
Jan. 31: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declares a public health emergency.
(WHO reports 11,821 cases and 259 deaths in China, and 132 cases outside of China, including seven in the U.S.)
Feb. 2: China travel restrictions authorized by Trump come into effect.
(WHO reports 17,253 cases and 361 deaths in China, and 153 cases and one death outside of China, including 11 cases in the U.S.)
Feb. 4: In State of the Union, Trump says the administration is “working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China” and “will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”
(WHO reports 24,363 cases and 491 deaths in China, and 191 cases and one death outside of China, including 11 cases in the U.S.)
Feb. 7: At a Democratic presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., only one candidate (Pete Buttigieg) makes a passing reference to “what we’re seeing coming out of China.” Biden says nothing.
(WHO reports 34,598 cases and 723 deaths in China, and 288 cases and one death outside of China, including 12 cases in the U.S.)
Feb. 19: At a Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, none of the candidates nor the NBC News/MSNBC moderators raise the issue.
(WHO reports 74,675 cases and 2,121 deaths in China, and 1,073 cases and eight deaths outside of China, including 15 cases in the U.S.)
Feb. 25: At a Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, S.C., for the first time a moderator brings up the coronavirus situation. Biden recalls the Ebola situation, criticizes Trump’s policies and he would insist that China admits U.S. experts. (After weeks of resistance from Beijing, a WHO team including U.S. experts had arrived in China eight days earlier.)
(WHO reports 78,191 cases and 2,718 deaths in China, and 2,918 cases and 44 deaths outside of China, including 53 cases in the U.S.)
Mar. 11: WHO declares global pandemic; Trump expands travel restrictions to apply to 26 European countries.
(WHO reports 80,981 cases and 3,173 deaths in China, and 44,279 cases and 1,440 deaths outside of China, including 987 cases and 291 deaths in the U.S.)
Biden Misleads on Trump Administration’s Attempts to Get US Experts Into China Early On (Sept. 11, 2020)