White House trade adviser Peter Navarro found himself on the receiving end of a verbal buzzsaw Thursday afternoon when CNN anchor Brianna Keilar relentlessly grilled him on the administration’s lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic, explicitly telling him he was “wasting everyone’s time.”
With casualties from the deadly coronavirus surging across the nation and hospitals running out of needed supplies as they become overrun with patients, Keilar confronted Navarro over the Trump administration’s seeming inability to provide ventilators and masks to localities and states in dire need.
Navarro, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, immediately took issue with Keilar’s questioning, demanding that she “not sensationalize this crisis” because it would “create more anxiety and panic.”
“I am not sensationalizing anything,” Keilar shot back, noting that she was tracking what governors are saying their states are lacking from the federal government. She then brought up the desperate need for ventilators across the country, pointing out that the current estimate will fall well short of what is required.
“In fairness, the government was clearly ill-prepared for this,” she said. “This is not something that, you know, these viruses happen and how awful they are, but they are things that happen. Your government knew in the summer when it did a drill that if this happened, this would be a problem and there was a lack of preparation, which is why we have you on to talk about the supply chain.
“Right now, it looks like the capacity for the U.S. is going to be about 200,000 ventilators and what experts are saying is there could be a million needed,” Keilar continued. “Are you going to be able to meet that demand?”
Navarro began to complain about what the Trump White House inherited from the Obama team, prompting Keilar to wonder aloud why he was wasting his time with that and not focusing on the problem at hand.
Eventually the Trump aide once again pointed the finger at the president’s predecessor, lamenting that the White House inherited insufficient stockpiles and inadequate testing systems.
“You’re wasting everyone’s time with this,” the CNN host fired back. “It’s 2020. The president was elected in 2016. Can you get to a million ventilators?”
Navarro went on to declare that the number of ventilators needed was “way, way, way out” and “wildly over what we need” before claiming that they are ramping up production. He then continued to complain about how Keilar was treating him.
“I think what’s important for CNN here is to report this in a sober way, without frightening America, and just having reasonable conversations when somebody from the White House comes on instead of just shouting in our ear,” he grumbled.
“Peter, I will tell you that one way that I think a lot of people are calming down is when they have information and even if it’s bad news, they know the size of the problem and the government has a plan for it,” the CNN anchor retorted. “That’s what we’re trying to get with you. You’re in charge of the supply chain. That’s the most pressing issue right now. I don’t know that I actually have too much of a clearer picture having spoken to you today.”
After grousing some more over Keilar calling the Trump administration unprepared, Navarro attempted to end the interview by placing the blame for the administration’s delayed response to the pandemic on China having dealt the country a “bad hand.”
“Peter, that is just a waste of time to say that,” Keilar scolded Navarro. “I’m going to leave it there.”
“Why is that a waste of time?” Navarro pleaded.
“We’re out of time and that’s just ridiculous,” she replied, ending the interview.