“Fox & Friends” rewrites Trump's denial that New York needs ventilators

Geraldo Rivera tells Cuomo to settle for the ventilators Trump is offering: “Rally around the commander-in-chief, he is the wartime president”

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:

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Citation From the March 26, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Hannity

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: New York is a bigger deal. But it's going to go also. But I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be.

I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you're going to major hospitals sometimes, they'll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they're saying, can we order 30,000 ventilators?

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.

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Citation From the March 27, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

GERALDO RIVERA (CORRESPONDENT-AT-LARGE): When I see, for instance, Andrew Cuomo saying “4,000 ventilators, what am I going to do with 4,000 ventilators, I need 30,000.” Take the 4,000, Governor Cuomo, it's a start. I understand from Dr. Birx — Ambassador Birx, on the president's coronavirus task force — that there are still available hospital beds in New York, still available ICU space, and ventilators. Let's — I understand — my city has been hurt, and people are really afraid — but let's get on the same page when it comes to telling the American people what we're doing and where w'ere going. This is not the time for partisanship. Not the time for politics. Rally around the commander-in-chief, he is the wartime president. Let's win this war. 

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): They're all playing the blame game. I was watching Sean Hannity last night interview the president. And the president said, look, to Governor Cuomo, he said 30,000 ventilators — I would love to give you those, but some hospitals only have one. He said, do you really need 30,000? If you do, we'll do our best. But he said we have — It's complicated, they're expensive to make. So I agree with you, Geraldo, I think it's not time to do the blame game, take what you can get and then we'll worry about the rest in the coming days.

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.