Axios founder Jim VandeHei blamed President Donald Trump and conservative “news pollution” Thursday for Republican states reacting slowly to the coronavirus crisis.
He suggested that Republican states have resisted emergency measures to combat the coronavirus and told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’ that the delay was due to “information inequality.”
“Why did Georgia wait so long [to react]? It’s because they were listening to President Trump … They were watching Fox News, they were listening to Rush Limbaugh and they were following conservatives on Twitter or social media … The information was there but in that information bubble, they were basically getting a lot of sort of noise and news pollution and it has huge consequences,” VandeHei told the show. (RELATED: Gavin Newsom Praises Trump For Swift Action On Coronavirus)
On Tuesday, Limbaugh argued that the current lockdown is detrimental to the economy and should be discontinued sooner rather than later because “the country cannot go on like this for months.”
Trump was quick to compare the COVID-19 virus to the common flu, tweeting as late as March 9, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
Only on Tuesday did Trump acknowledge that the coronavirus is not “like the flu. It’s vicious.”
During a March 9 interview on “Fox & Friends,” White House Press Secretary Stephane Grisham compared the COVID-19 virus to a “severe flu season” and said the president planned to continue to speak to mass rallies despite the potential danger of infection.
VandeHei said Thursday that Republican states like Florida and Georgia could have taken protective steps “months ago” and that the problem “has only been rectified, really, in the last five or six days.”
“You have seen a different tone from the president, and you have seen a different tone from more people on Fox News. There’s still a lot of garbage out there. You go on Facebook, Twitter, you follow some of these conservatives who have big followings … They’re still spreading nonsense.”
VandeHei said any resistance to combatting the coronavirus is rooted in ideology, in a belief that “[it’s] big government trying to jam down their dumb rules on us and that has massive consequences,” adding that unless Trump issues a “national declaration” to shut down all unnecessary activity, you’re gonna have …. conservative states that sit out.” (RELATED: Georgia To Be Put Under Shelter-In-Place Order)
He suggested Trump does not have the political will to take “strong national steps” because, among other things, “he doesn’t want to own the whole thing” and because “people inside the White House” are advising the president to refrain from telling the states how to run their affairs.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor on the coronavirus task force, has credited Trump with shutting down travel from China to the U.S. relatively early on in the COVID-19 crisis, saying the president helped contain the outbreak.