Fox News’ morning talk show did a major revision on Friday of a statement that President Donald Trump made on the network the night before, when he denied that New York state would need as many ventilators as Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called for to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump appeared via phone for an interview Thursday night, with Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity:
Trump's remarks resembled ones previously made by Fox News senior medical correspondent Marc Siegel to Tucker Carlson. In Siegel’s telling, the rate of hospitalization in New York was “starting to flatten out a little bit,” and the state might not need 30,000 ventilators, “which I can’t even put my mind around.”
On the Friday morning edition of Fox & Friends, the response was twofold. Fox correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera told Cuomo to take the ventilators he could get from the federal government, in the name of uniting behind “the wartime president.” At the other end, co-host Ainsley Earhardt totally rewrote the meaning of Trump’s statement from Thursday to claim that it was not meant to deny that the need for ventilators exists, but to present it as acknowledging the scarcity, with a sincere desire to fill the need for those 30,000 ventilators if only it were possible.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Thursday night that the administration has yet to complete a proposed deal with General Motors to produce ventilators — contrary to the president’s March 22 tweet that GM and other car manufacturers were “given the go ahead” — reportedly due to the Trump administration’s own hesitation about the price tag involved.
Targets have changed by the hour, officials said, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, which approves the use of medical devices, and the White House try to figure out how many ventilators to request and how much they should cost.
Those issues appeared to come to a head on Wednesday afternoon, when FEMA told the White House that it was premature to make a decision.
The $1.5 billion price tag comes to around $18,000 a ventilator. And the overall cost, by comparison, is roughly equal to buying 18 F-35s, the Pentagon’s most advanced fighter jet.
So on Wednesday, despite the president’s tweet three days earlier, FEMA was still weighing competing offers in order to make a recommendation to Mr. Kushner.
All of this, while Trump has still refused to use his emergency powers under the Defense Production Act to simply order companies to start manufacturing various needed supplies. As a direct result of this lack of coordination at the federal level, state and local governments across the country are now competing against each other in bidding wars and paying exorbitant prices for necessary medical equipment.
Trump has also echoed right-wing blogs in blaming Cuomo for supposedly not having bought 16,000 ventilators five years ago. This was based on a misinterpretation of a state report from 2015 which said that the state had stockpiled a surplus of ventilators for a “moderate” pandemic model — based on the flu outbreaks of 1957 and 1968 — but would fall far short in case of “severe” pandemic model based on the 1918 flu pandemic.