Politics & Policy

Sen. Chris Murphy: ‘The Reason We Are in This Crisis Today Is Not Because of Anything China Did’

Senator Chris Murphy speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 13, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said Tuesday that the blame for coronavirus “is not because of anything that China did” and instead rests squarely with President Trump.

Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Murphy laid out the case that Trump “didn’t take this virus seriously” and that he “viewed this as a hoax” — in an apparent nod to a Democratic attack ad that misrepresents Trump’s “hoax” comments.

“Many of us on both sides of the aisle knew what this virus had done in China, we knew it was a matter of time before it arrived here, and it was just shocking how cavalier the administration was,” he stated, referencing a February 5 White House meeting on coronavirus that Murphy attended. “ . . . We weren’t going to be able to keep every case out of the United States, but we didn’t have to have tens of thousands of people dying.”

China’s failures to halt the spread of the virus from its epicenter in Wuhan are well documented, with Chinese President Xi Jinping only publicly commenting on the virus six days after his officials privately warned local leaders that they “must prepare for and respond to a pandemic.”

Murphy went on to criticize Trump’s Tuesday decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization, telling Cooper that “pulling money out of the WHO has nothing to do with keeping America safe, it’s all about the president’s attempt to find scapegoats.” He pointed to positive public comments the president made about China in the buildup to the pandemic, saying “there was no bigger cheerleader for China and their response to coronavirus than President Donald J. Trump.” On March 27, Trump tweeted to say he was “working closely together” with Xi on stopping the virus, after defending his calling the outbreak the “Chinese virus” and criticizing China for attempting to claim coronavirus originated in the U.S.

While Vice President Mike Pence claimed earlier this month that Trump never “belittled the threat of the coronavirus,” the administration’s response, while praised at points by governors, has also drawn criticism from some Democrats and some questions from Republicans. Senator Susan Collins said Tuesday that Trump’s coronavirus response has been “very uneven.”

“Let’s be honest, there is effectively no response to coronavirus from the administration. All the president does is hold press conferences, everything that has been done to effectively control this virus has been done by governors,” Murphy argued. “ . . . The president talks in these press conferences, but all the of the response has been left to governors. And so if the president had had a more effective national plan from the beginning, we would be in a very different position than we are today.”

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