Democrat Debates Ignored Coronavirus Almost Entirely Before Feb. 25

CNN Debate (Mandel Ngan / Getty)
Mandel Ngan / Getty

Sunday’s Democrat debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was only the second to mention coronavirus directly, though the issue had emerged weeks before it was first discussed by the candidates.

President Donald Trump first mentioned coronavirus on Jan. 22, after it was brought up in a press conference. Vice President Mike Pence discussed it more extensively on Jan. 27. The president imposed a China travel ban Jan. 31.

On Feb. 4, President Trump mentioned coronavirus in his State of the Union address, which was torn up by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Congress was still in the midst of the impeachment trial until Feb. 5.

Democrats did not mention the coronavirus much at all, and it did not come up in the presidential primary debate in Iowa (Jan. 14). Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg referred to it indirectly in the New Hampshire debate (Feb. 7): “The next president is going to face challenges from global health security, like what we’re seeing coming out of China.”

It did not come up in Nevada (Feb. 19). It was first discussed somewhat extensively by the candidates in the South Carolina debate (Feb. 25), which is also when a moderator finally asked candidates about it.

Coronavirus was first brought up by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who accused the president (inaccurately) of firing the pandemic specialists and cutting funding to the Centers for Disease Control. It was mentioned next by Buttigieg, in the context of national security.

The moderator then asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) whether she would close the borders to “prevent an outbreak” in the United States. She did not answer the question directly, but said she would have coordinated her response better through the presidency than Trump had. Biden was asked about it and mentioned his experience during the fight against Ebola in 2014. Left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer said the president’s “America First” foreign policy was inadequate for coronavirus. He reiterated his criticism of the president’s response to coronavirus in the spin room after the debate, saying that Trump was incompetent.

If it could be said that the U.S. government could have done more, and earlier, to fight the coronavirus outbreak, it could also be said that the opposition and the media largely ignored the issue until more than a month after the Trump administration had begun to talk about it. Few anticipated how great a challenge coronavirus would be.

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). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was corrected to reflect the correct date of the South Carolina debate (Feb. 25, not Feb. 26).

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