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Mike Pence can’t be trusted to lead Trump’s coronavirus response: Public health expert

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A biologist who has helped coordinate public health responses to global outbreaks warns that Vice President Mike Pence is one of the last officials who should be considered to lead the coronavirus response.

Dr. Lucky Tran — a scientist who coordinated public communications during previous outbreaks of Ebola, Zika virus and COVID-19 — published a column in The Guardian blasting Pence’s track record on health and science as disqualifying.

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“Pence’s public health record is disastrous,” Tran writes. “As the governor of Indiana, Pence was responsible for the largest HIV outbreak in state history. He slashed public health spending, triggering the closure of HIV testing sites. Against the advice of scientists, he banned needle exchanges, causing transmissions to spread due to increased needle sharing.”

“Pence has also downplayed the link between smoking and cancer,” he added.

The biologist recognized that Pence will probably serve more as a spokesman in the administration’s response, but he hoped that experienced government scientists and public health specialists would make critical decisions — and not elected officials and political appointees.

“Pence’s appointment follows a track record of the administration prioritizing politics over scientific expertise,” Tran writes. “Trump has appointed fossil fuel lobbyists to lead the EPA, climate deniers to head up NASA and the Council on Environmental Quality, Dow executives to USDA leadership, and a chemical industry insider to run the EPA’s toxic chemicals program. These appointments have eroded public trust and shifted the priorities of these agencies from saving lives to special interests.”

He wasn’t encouraged by the administration’s move to route all coronavirus messaging through Pence’s office, because he said the vice president and Trump’s political appointees lacked credibility.

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“Letting officials speak freely isn’t the root cause of their problems,” Tran writes, “it’s that the Trump administration is elevating the wrong representatives, who don’t understand what they’re talking about.”

Tran agreed that outbreaks necessarily had a political dimension because they disrupted society and the economy, but he warned that the focus should always remain on public health instead of making leaders appear strong.

“To overcome an epidemic, we need the public to have confidence in our federal agencies,” he writes.

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“Viruses don’t discriminate between liberals and conservatives,” Tran adds. “Dedicated and talented government scientists are working hard to protect us all. We should allow them the freedom to get on with their important jobs.”


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Team Trump ‘running for cover’ after attempt to crack down on protests results in ‘humiliation’: conservative columnist

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Writing in the Washington Post this Wednesday, columnist Jennifer Rubin writes that the "tear-gassing of peaceful protesters, the debasement of St. John’s Episcopal Church, the wholly inappropriate participation of the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the goose step across Lafayette Square" were actually President Trump's way of compensating for reports that he retreated to an underground bunker when protesters got close to the White House.

Rubin points to Trump's claim that he went to the bunker for an "inspection." But according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, he had no idea where Trump and the rest of his entourage were going.

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Trump’s attempt to look tough backfires — and even Republicans seem to see the writing on the wall

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From the moment that protests against racist police violence started to spread from Minneapolis to the rest of the country (and the world), after a white police officer named Derek Chauvin killed an unarmed black man named George Floyd in a gruesome incident captured on video, it's been clear that Donald Trump thought this was exactly the Hail Mary he needed to win re-election. Trump has been desperate for a way to distract the country from the soaring death rate of the coronavirus pandemic (now at 108,000 and counting) and the 40 million left unemployed in the resulting economic collapse. He believed that a racist and sadistic backlash against the protesters was just the ticket.

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‘Like George W. Bush after 9/11’: Kayleigh McEnany declares Trump Bible photo op a historic moment

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White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended the use of force against protesters in order to clear way for President Donald Trump's photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church.

At her daily press briefing, McEnany was asked why it was necessary for Trump to walk to the church, where he held up a Bible.

McEnany suggested that Trump's photo op had been a historic moment.

"This was a very important moment," she explained. "I would note that through all of time, we've seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time, to show a message of resilience and determination."

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