CLAIM: “Trump rolled over for the Chinese” on coronavirus, while Joe Biden warned the administration to take action.
VERDICT: FALSE. Trump used a travel ban, which Biden opposed, and pressured China to let U.S. experts into the country.
Biden’s latest campaign ad is a laughably false effort to blame President Donald Trump for the coronavirus crisis by arguing he was too soft on China. The ad recycles several false claims already awarded “Three Pinocchios” by the Washington Post.
Donald Trump left our country unprepared and unprotected for the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime — and now we're paying the price. pic.twitter.com/aCxcqQqUqw
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 18, 2020
Biden claims, for example, that he urged the president to send the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into China — but that the president did not, and praised China instead. The ad cites Biden’s comments from the Democrat debate on Feb. 25 in South Carolina — the first time any Democrat debate discussed the coronavirus issue: “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country; you have to be open; you have to be clear; we have to know what’s going on; we have to be there with you, and insist on it and insist, insist, insist,” Biden said.
But as the Washington Post noted, U.S. officials had already visited China three days before, on Feb. 22. And they had been trying to do so since early January, according to the New York Times in early February: “For more than a month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been offering to send a team of experts to China to observe its coronavirus outbreak and help if it can. But no invitation has come — and no one can publicly explain why.”
The central claim of the ad is false.
Biden claims to have warned in an op-ed in late January that the Trump administration’s policies would not stop the pandemic. But Biden also opposed the travel ban with China, which did slow the spread — something the ad leaves out.
The ad does mention the travel ban, claiming that it was ineffective because 40,000 people still arrived in the U.S. from China. It sounds like a lot of people — except that it was 1% of normal passenger traffic, and those people who arrived were subject to humanitarian exceptions that Democrats would normally celebrate — permanent residents, children, etc.
The ad mentions several instances where Trump praised China’s efforts to fight the disease. But it distorts the timeline, putting Trump’s praise for China in January (before the extent of the pandemic was known) after Biden’s call for CDC experts to be admitted in late February (after they were already there). It also omits crucial context, such as Trump’s many criticisms of China, and the fact that the administration is fighting a complicated trade war with China, and recently concluded a deal in which China has agreed to purchase tens of billions of dollars in agricultural goods from U.S. farmers.
It might have been effective enough for Biden to make the case — arguably wrong, but arguable nonetheless — that the administration could have done more. Claiming Trump went too easy on China — when he is the first U.S. president to confront in any meaningful way — is ridiculous. And it points to the success that Republican attacks on Biden’s decades-long closeness to China — a relationship that earned his son, Hunter, a sweetheart investment deal — are having.
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 new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.