by Sheri Urban
An Associated Press fact check confirms what conservative news outlets and commentators called out earlier this week: that Democrat presidential candidates are falsely claiming that President Donald Trump cut funding and personnel needed to fight coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Breitbart News fact-checked “mostly false” claims by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg during the Democrat debate in South Carolina. Bloomberg claimed that Trump had “fired” a pandemic specialist at the White House, and “defunded” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The implication: Trump was to blame for the spread of coronavirus — even though there have been just over a dozen cases and no fatalities in the U.S.
The truth: the pandemic specialist had left voluntarily during a reorganization of the bloated National Security Council (NSC), and the CDC cuts — as the agency wound down its Ebola response — were only proposed, not enacted.
The AP confirmed Thursday, in an article titled “AP FACT CHECK: Democrats distort coronavirus readiness,” that much of what Democrats are saying about Trump’s response to the coronavirus challenge is simply not true:
Democratic presidential contenders are describing the federal infectious-disease bureaucracy as rudderless and ill-prepared for the coronavirus threat because of budget cuts and ham-handed leadership by President Donald Trump. That’s a distorted picture. For starters, Trump hasn’t succeeded in cutting the budget.
He’s proposed cuts but Congress ignored him and increased financing instead. The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aren’t suffering from budget cuts that never took effect.
Some public health experts say a bigger concern than White House budgets is the steady erosion of a CDC grant program for state and local public health emergency preparedness — the front lines in detecting and battling new disease. But that decline was set in motion by a congressional budget measure that predates Trump.
“The CDC’s response has been excellent, as it has been in the past,” said John Auerbach, president of the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, which works with government at all levels to improve the nation’s response to high-risk health crises. Some Democrats have charged that Trump decimated the nation’s public health leadership, but Auerbach said CDC’s top scientific ranks have remained stable during the past three years.
Read the full AP fact check here.
The changes in the Trump administration — the restructuring and the proposed CDC cuts — were overdue, as the Ebola crisis had faded. It was bad luck that a new public health crisis emerged at that precise moment.
But it was also fortunate that President Trump departed from protocol in one important way, widely criticized at the time: by shutting down travel from China, something the AP says is not typically done, he likely prevented a larger outbreak and bought the government precious time to prepare a response and educate the public.