President Trump is clearly unhappy with a New York Times report published Saturday that details several instances in which his "inability or unwillingness to absorb warnings coming at him" from top officials about the COVID-19 coronavirus, starting in mid-January, led to his administration "squandering vital time as the coronavirus spread silently across the country."
For example, top U.S. health officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — then in charge of the White House coronavirus task force — and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci were concerned enough about the virus by mid-February to schedule a Feb. 26 meeting to convince Trump to enact strict mitigation strategies like targeted "quarantine and isolation measures," the Times reports. But after another top U.S. health official issued a bleak warning about the outbreak on Feb. 25, the meeting was canceled, "replaced by a news conference in which the president announced that the White House response would be put under the command of Vice President Mike Pence." Trump issued social distancing guidelines March 16.
Trump issued several tweets Sunday criticizing the article, the Times, and the news media in general. The Times story is "fake, just like the 'paper' itself," he tweeted Sunday night. "I was criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so," and Azar "told me nothing until later." He retweeted a former GOP candidate calling for firing Fauci, adding that he "banned China long before people spoke up." (Trump issued his China travel restrictions Feb. 2 with the backing of Azar and Fauci but not his economic team, the Times reports, and "40,000 Americans and other authorized travelers have still come into the country from China since that order.")
Trump even mocked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace after he mentioned the Times article on his show, asking: "What the hell is happening to Fox News?"