The New York Times on April 11 reported that various officials in President Donald Trump’s administration sounded the alarm on the novel coronavirus in January, but the president “was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly.” While medical experts appeared on Fox News Sunday and State of the Union to discuss the story -- with Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledging that lives could have been saved had Trump acted sooner -- and Meet the Press discussed it as well, This Week and Face the Nation failed to cover the Times report at all.
According to the Times’ reporting, Trump repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak even as experts were making clear that aggressive action was needed:
Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.
The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen.
The shortcomings of Mr. Trump’s performance have played out with remarkable transparency as part of his daily effort to dominate television screens and the national conversation.
But dozens of interviews with current and former officials and a review of emails and other records revealed many previously unreported details and a fuller picture of the roots and extent of his halting response as the deadly virus spread.
The Times’ report went on to list several intelligence reports, memos, and direct warnings to Trump that went unheeded for crucial weeks, and listed numerous failures and delays in the actions the administration did finally decide to carry out. (There was so much reporting that the Times published a follow-up piece summarizing all of it.) The paper also highlighted key email exchanges on the response, including from a former Bush and Obama adviser who wrote that “we have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window.” The paper published 80 pages of these emails.
On Sunday morning, the Times reported that more than 20,600 Americans have died with the coronavirus, and on Friday more than 2,000 people died in a single day for the first time. The Times has previously reported that the U.S. death toll is being undercounted.
On the April 12 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, anchor Jake Tapper asked Fauci, who serves on the White House’s coronavirus task force, whether lives could have been saved had Trump acted earlier. Fauci replied that it’s hard to say what would have happened, but “obviously you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives.”
On Fox’s Fox News Sunday, Dr. Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security said Trump’s delayed actions hurt the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
And NBC’s Meet the Press moderator, Chuck Todd questioned Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn about an email from the Times story, asking, “Do you feel like you had enough institutional knowledge to deal with this pandemic?”
But a Media Matters review of the programming and SnapStream transcript of ABC’s This Week and CBS’ Face the Nation revealed that both programs failed to even mention this blockbuster Times report.
Earlier in the pandemic, the Sunday shows collectively failed to cover another aspect of Trump’s botched coronavirus response -- his administration’s 2018 firings of the pandemic response teams at the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security.