Tensions explode at Trump conference


Donald Trump has held an explosive press conference, defending his handling of the coronavirus crisis and playing what critics have called a "propaganda" video.

The US President claimed he'd been "brutalised" over his handling of the pandemic, and dismissed claims he'd mismanaged the crisis as "fake news".

The President, in a combative mood, took aim at the media's coverage of him and his administration.

"The press has not treated these incredible people who have done such a great job - they haven't treated them fair," he said.

"They're way off. We were way ahead of schedule," Trump said. "Everything we did I was criticised because I was too early."

Claims surfaced this week that high ranking health officials in the US urged the Trump administration to enforce social distancing restrictions throughout late January and February, but that these measures weren't implemented until mid-March.

Mr Trump dismissed these claims today, saying in January there had been "no deaths" and no cases of coronavirus detected in the US, and he wouldn't have been able to implement a lockdown.

President Donald Trump lashes out at journalists in the room and says he’s been ‘brutalised’ by the media. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP
President Donald Trump lashes out at journalists in the room and says he’s been ‘brutalised’ by the media. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP

He was supported by top disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, who dismissed reports he'd been at odds with the president.

Mr Trump stopped his press briefing to play a campaign-style newsreel of clips detailing his response to the coronavirus.

The clip seemingly backed up his claims, and suggested the media had continually downplayed the risk posed by the virus. It also included interviews with US governors praising the work of the President.

Mr Trump said it took the White House about two hours to make the video. He said the White House would be able to produce "hundreds" more similar videos.

A number of US news broadcasters cut away from the clip as it was played, with some critics referring to it as "propaganda".






Mr Trump said the video was about "correcting" misinformation he didn't "mind being criticised but not when it's not true".

"We really have done this right," the President said, saying if he had done things differently there would now be "hundreds of thousands dead".

"It literally would have been more than the Civil War."

It's estimated between 616,000 and 1 million people died in the American Civil War.

In the US, more than 682,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The death toll is at more than 23,500.

The President also claimed the government's response to the pandemic so far had been adequate, saying the country had already produced enough ventilators and up to 20,000 beds in the space of a week.

He also defended his relationship with the various state governors.

"Nobody has ever done a job like this. We have 50 governors and territories and they can't find anything to complain about," the President said.

Mr Trump also claimed there had been issues with some states' stockpiles of ventilators and the federal government was working to build shortfalls - something he claimed was "not even really our responsibility".

"Some of them haven't done a good job. But now we can build the stockpiles," the President said.

Dr Anthony Fauci dismisses reports he is not getting along with the President. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP
Dr Anthony Fauci dismisses reports he is not getting along with the President. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP

The President also defended his relationship with Dr Fauci after reports suggested the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was at risk of being fired, because tweets suggesting as much were shared by the President.

Dr Fauci had commented on the relationship between the White House and health officials over the weekend, saying there was "a lot of push-back" in the early days of the pandemic, which he said may have cost people their lives.

"Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don't think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor," Dr Fauci told CNN on Sunday.

But Dr Fauci said he was "asked a hypothetical question in an interview and you can get in trouble with hypothetical questions".

But he dismissed the idea outright that Mr Trump didn't take the advice to implement wider social distancing restrictions.

"The first and only time Dr (Deborah) Birx and I made a recommendation to the President to have a shutdown, to have strong mitigation … the President listened to the recommendation," Dr Fauci said.

Dr Birx is the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator.

"The second time we told the President 15 days was not long enough and the President extended the shutdowns to 30 days."

Dr Fauci was asked if he was talking at the press conference voluntarily.

"Everything I do is voluntary. Don't even imply that," he said.

The claims had earlier been dismissed by the White House.

"This media chatter is ridiculous. President Trump is not firing Dr Fauci," spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement on Monday. Dr Fauci was a "trusted" colleague of the President.

Mr Trump said the reason he shared calls for Dr Fauci to be fired was because it was "someone's opinion".

"Not everybody is happy with Anthony," the President said. "Not everybody is happy with everybody."

Originally published as Tensions explode at Trump conference