Fact Check: Joe Biden Misquotes Trump on ‘Responsibility’ for Testing

President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that President Donald Trump said that coronavirus was “not my responsibility.”

VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. Trump was referring specifically about early failures in coronavirus testing.

Biden told an NBC town hall in Florida on Monday night that Trump said coronavirus was not his responsibility.
Trump never said that.

Here is Biden’s exact accusation, made in response to a question about a “national mask mandate”:

I would go out and I would call all the governors to the White House. Some probably wouldn’t come. And I would call the governors and I would say to the mayors as well as the county executives: take responsibility. Take responsibility and lay out the guidelines. Look, folks, one of the problems is, this president said, “I take no responsibility.” Literally. “It’s not my responsibility.” Well, if it’s not his responsibility — he talked about this being like a time of war. We are under attack.

Biden misquoted Trump.

Ironically, Biden was describing how he would delegate responsibility to state and local leaders: it was Biden saying that coronavirus was “not his responsibility”!

Here is what Trump actually said.

In a Rose Garden press conference to announce partnerships with pharmaceutical companies in developing tests and treatments for coronavirus, Trump was asked by a reporter about early delays in testing (via White House transcript):

Q: Thank you so much, Mr. President. Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, “a failing.” Do you take responsibility for that?

And when can you guarantee that every single American who needs a test will be able to have a test? What’s the date of that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a — a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time. It wasn’t meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about. And what we’ve done is redesigned it very quickly with the help of the people behind me. And we’re now in very, very strong shape.

Trump was right. The early lag in testing was the result of failures at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — whom Biden has said he would put in charge of the whole nation’s response to coronavirus — noted that it was no one’s fault in particular that the U.S. test failed.

There were a series of mistakes by the CDC — which also tried to prevent the private sector from developing its own tests.

A president never wants to say that something was “not my responsibility.” As Harry Truman said: “The buck stops here.”

But in this case, Trump was correct. The lag in testing — at least initially — was not his fault. And Trump never said that the overall response to coronavirus was not his responsibility.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.