President Donald Trump reportedly tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak to keep him busy.
The White House tightened control Thursday over messaging about the virus from government health officials and scientists, who must coordinate all statements and public appearances with the vice president, reported the New York Times.
Pence was tapped for the job after aides debated whether to name a “coronavirus czar” to coordinate the administration’s response, and Trump announced the move during his news conference.
“The decision to put Mr. Pence in charge was made on Wednesday after the president told some people that the vice president didn’t ‘have anything else to do,’ according to people familiar with the president’s comments,” the Times reported.
The president passed over Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, by choosing Pence to lead the response, which will be coordinated with Dr. Deborah Birx.
Azar denied reports that he had not been consulted about the decision, and insisted Thursday to lawmakers during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that he approved of the move.
“I said, quote, ‘that’s genius,’” Azar said.