BY: JORDYN PHELPS AND ELIZABETH THOMAS, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — As much of the country remains engulfed in the biggest public health crisis in a century, President Donald Trump has held only three public coronavirus-related events in the last month.
This week alone, the president has maintained a busy public schedule, but it has been devoid of any events focused on the crisis.
Instead, he held an event celebrating law enforcement, a press conference to trumpet actions to punish China for its crackdown on Hong Kong, traveled to Atlanta to talk about infrastructure, touted efforts to crackdown on MS-13, and held a flashy event on the South Lawn complete with pickup trucks and massive weights to showcase efforts to rein in government regulation.
His most direct comments have been to claim he does, too, get along with Dr. Anthony Fauci amid a messy effort by some White House officials to discredit him. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 64% of Americans distrust what he says about the pandemic.
He has yet to respond to his Democratic nemesis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she took a shot at him Thursday, saying, “I have concluded that he is like the man who refuses to ask for directions. All of the answers are there … and yet the president continues to go town the wrong path and refuses to ask for directions from scientists who know better than us.”
“Mister President, admit it. You’ve gone down the wrong path. Ask for directions,” she said.
Trump’s most recent event even somewhat related to the health emergency was a Saturday trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, during which he visited with health care staff who have been treating COVID-19 patients and also met with wounded service members.
In July, Trump held a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America’s small businesses and held a national dialogue on safely reopening America’s schools. Prior to that, the president’s most recent event focused on the virus was on June 5 when Trump toured Puritan Medical Products in Maine.
While the president has mentioned the coronavirus at some of his unrelated events and has tweeted about the pandemic with some regularity, his comments are usually focused on touting his administration’s effort, blaming China and falsely claiming that more testing explains the alarming rise in cases. And his defensive tweets often include attacks on his political opponents.
He teased on Thursday that he has a busy public calendar ahead, saying that “we have many exciting things that we’ll be announcing over the next eight weeks.” He then went on to tick off a list of issues he will be discussing in the coming weeks.
The pandemic was not among them.
“We can honestly say nobody has ever going to see eight weeks like we’re going to have,” Trump said, promising “levels of thought that a lot of people believed very strongly we didn’t have in this country” on issues ranging from “suburbia” to immigration, education, and healthcare.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s lack of coronavirus-focused events in Thursday’s briefing, insisting he is still focused on the pandemic but that “he’s doing a lot of things at once.”
“The president is focusing on a lot. Look, the president, just yesterday, held a big press conference, if you will, or an avail in the Oval Office about MS-13. COVID is something that we’re focused on. It is a top priority of this administration,” McEnany said. “But there are other things the president has to focus on.”
While McEnany would not say when was the last time the president actually attended a coronavirus task force briefing, she noted that Vice President Mike Pence remains heavily engaged with the group. Pence continues to lead regular meetings with the task force, talks with governors on a weekly call, and also occasionally holds briefings for the media.
Pence led the last coronavirus task force briefing at the Department of Education in July. Trump did not attend the briefing.
But while the president’s press secretary defended the president’s current approach, not all of his advisers agree.
One of the president’s top advisers, counselor Kellyanne Conway, publicly made the case for the president to change course in remarks to reporters Friday.
With the president’s poll numbers suffering, Conway argued the president should return to holding regular briefings focused on the issue that is most on Americans minds.
“His approval in the pandemic was higher when he was speaking, I don’t think anybody needs to be up there for two hours, it can be 20 minutes, it can be 30 minutes, it can be two questions, it can be no questions respectfully, as long as the information is being delivered,” Conway told reporters.
Conway made little effort to disguise the dissension among the president’s advisers when asked on Fox News why the president stopped holding coronavirus briefings in the first place.
“Some people are encouraging him to stop,” she said.
“The president’s numbers were much higher when he was out there briefing everybody on his day-by-day basis about the coronavirus. Just giving people the information,” Conway said, buttressing her case for the president to put greater public focus on the ongoing pandemic.
Conway said she thinks “it’s important for the country to hear from President Trump” on the issue that’s most affecting Americans’ lives right now.
But there’s no indication yet that the president is taking Conway’s advice. Asked Friday afternoon if the president has any upcoming coronavirus focused events on his calendar, the White House declined to comment.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.