Speed Reads

not the time for silence

GOP Sen. Richard Burr privately warned donors of coronavirus danger weeks ago — but downplayed it publicly

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) seemingly knew this pandemic was coming.

In a secret, weeks-old recording obtained by NPR, Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, can be heard describing COVID-19's "aggressive transmission" as "akin to the 1918 pandemic." But Burr changed his tune in an op-ed and a statement previewing America's COVID-19 response — and President Trump ended up parroting and exaggerating that dangerously positive rhetoric.

The new coronavirus "is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," Burr told some of his biggest donors at a Feb. 27 luncheon. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic," he continued. Burr warned these companies that they may have to "alter their travel," and that schools would close and people would be told to stay home — something that didn't happen for another few weeks.

Yet Burr did "did not warn the public of the government actions he thought might become necessary" to combat coronavirus like he did in private, NPR writes. That same day, Trump declared that the coronavirus would "disappear ... like a miracle." And in a March 5 statement, Burr said the U.S. has "a framework in place that has put us in a better position than any other country to respond to a public health threat, like the coronavirus."

As of Thursday, Trump is now claiming he always knew the new coronavirus would turn into a pandemic. And as for why the U.S. didn't prepare for a pandemic, well, Trump instead said the "only thing we weren't prepared for was the media."