While Americans are struggling through the real world health and economic challenges of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Trump White House is apparently quite concerned about messaging. According to The Daily Beast, Vice President Mike Pence and some other folks on the White House staff, like legislative affairs director Marc Short, have been meeting with top conservative “influencers” in an apparent attempt to at least try and sync up stories about the Trump administration’s Coronavirus response. In reality, that response has been chaotic and disjointed, but those involved in the meetings have only sung the president’s praises, at the expense of reality.
Currently, according to Short, there’s another similar meeting in the works already. The first Pence meeting with right-wing influencers occurred behind the scenes at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — which, ironically, faced an attendee diagnosed with Coronavirus, which drove Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to self-quarantine, among other precautions. In public speeches at that event, Trump allies like then-White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wrongly claimed that the Coronavirus coverage was just some attempted political bludgeon against the president.
The “influencers” involved in Pence’s meetings have kept up with that easily debunked argument. (Thousands of ill Americans are not in on some kind of conspiracy. There is no conspiracy.) Days after CPAC, Pence held another influencers meeting, this time at his office at the White House compound. Attendees included frequent Fox News guest Dan Bongino, former Trump adviser Jason Miller, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former White House official Boris Epshteyn, Sinclair host and ex-Fox News host Eric Bolling, and former Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia.
At least a couple of those attendees have been using racist monikers like the “Chinese virus” to describe the Coronavirus, which has spread across the globe and does not have a nationality (obviously). According to anonymous sources, attendees “discussed how their collective Twitter following—estimated at “tens of millions”—could be used as a bullhorn for the administration,” and Pence also used the opportunity to apparently complain about public criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Topics also included “the difficulties the administration was confronting related to producing coronavirus test kits, as well as airline cleaning protocols, nursing-home cleaning measures, and the number of masks the administration hopes are produced by the company 3M.”
It would be nice if the Trump administration focused on addressing the tangible issues of the Coronavirus response rather than these meetings about messaging strategy.
Testing lagged for weeks on end as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention struggled to produce an effective testing kit supply for public health labs rather than accepting the testing kits available from the World Health Organization, which has urged countries around the world to step up their testing regimen. At this point, official testing numbers have been questionable, but there’d need to be a whole lot of ground to make up with the unreported portions because they’re dismal. South Korea has tested more than a quarter of a million people for the virus in the same time frame that the official U.S. test count reached just 25,000.