- President Donald Trump berated a female reporter’s “nasty tone” after she asked him to clarify comments made by his son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner the previous day.
- CBS News’ Weijia Jiang asked Trump to explain Kushner’s apparent assertion the day before that the Strategic National Stockpile was not intended for the states to use, but rather the federal government.
- The stockpile was established to supplement states’ medical supplies during a health crisis or biochemical attack.
- “It’s such a basic simple question and you try and make it sound so bad,” Trump said, adding, “You ought to be ashamed.”
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President Donald Trump berated reporters at a Friday evening briefing of the White House coronavirus task force for asking him to clarify confusing statements made by Jared Kushner, a White House advisor and his son-in-law, at a news conference the previous day.
CBS News’ Weijia Jiang asked Trump to explain Kushner’s apparent assertion that the Strategic National Stockpile, a national supply of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment reserved for a health crisis, was intended for the federal government but not for the states.
Kushner had said Thursday that “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile — it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”
It was Kushner’s assertion that the resource was “our stockpile” that caused confusion, as it seemed to imply that the stockpile was not meant for states to use, even though the program was in fact intended to supplement states’ supplies during a health or biochemical crisis, as The Washington Post explained.
White House reporters sought clarity from Trump several times about Kushner’s remarks over the course of the briefing, but when Jiang read Kushner’s quote to the president, he grew confrontational.
“Why are you asking?” Trump responded before she could finish her question, claiming it was a “gotcha” question.
—11th Hour (@11thHour) April 3, 2020
“You know what ‘our’ means? United States of America that’s what it means,” Trump continued. “And then we take that ‘our,’ and we distribute it to the states.”
As Jiang attempted to press him on what Kushner’s wording means for the states, Trump began to berate her questioning.
“It’s such a basic simple question and you try and make it sound so bad,” Trump said. “You ought to be, you ought to be ashamed, you know what? You ought to be ashamed.”
“You said ‘our’, and ‘our’ means for the country, and ‘our’ means for the states because the states are a part of the country,” Trump continued. “Don’t make it sound bad.”
The president then called on another reporter, but as Jiang tried to continue to follow up, Trump told her, “You just asked your question in a very nasty tone.”
A second, male, reporter followed up on Jiang’s question, asking, “isn’t [the stockpile] designed to be able to distribute to the states?”
“It’s also needed for the federal government,” Trump said. “We have a federal stockpile and they have state stockpiles, and frankly they were many of the states were totally unprepared for this. So we had to go into the federal stockpile. But we’re not an ordering clerk. They have to have for themselves.”
Reporters were seeking clarification about Kushner’s words the day before
Kushner had caused confusion at a Thursday briefing, when he seemed to imply that the national strategic stockpile was not meant for state use.
“You also have a situation where in some states FEMA allocated ventilators to the states, and you have instances where in cities they’re running out but the state still has a stockpile,” he said.
Kushner continued, “And the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile — it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”
“So we’re encouraging the states to make sure that they’re assessing the needs, they’re getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we’ve given them,” Kusher said.
On Friday, journalists with GQ and The Washington Post pointed out that the language on the Department of Health and Human Services website had been changed to reflect Kushner’s wording.
—Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) April 3, 2020
The stockpile was the brainchild of President Bill Clinton, who, in 1998, pushed for the creation of such a reserve after reading a novel about a fictional bioterrorism event, TIME reported.
A 2001 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the National Strategic Stockpile, then known as the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS), as “a national repository of pharmaceuticals, antidotes to chemical poisons, supplies for administering drugs, and emergency medical equipment for rapid deployment to the site of a biological or chemical terrorism. The NPS Program is designed to supplement and re-supply state and local public health agencies in the event of a biological or chemical terrorism incident anywhere, at any time within the US or its territories.”
Though it is clear that the stockpile was maintained by the federal government, it was also clearly designed to supplement and supply states during a crisis.