May 17, 2020

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar joined Jake Tapper on CNN on Sunday morning to talk about all things COVID...and it did not go well. Why was it such a trainwreck? Mainly because, when pressed about how badly the Trump administration responded to COVID, Azar tried to victim blame, insinuating that the health, race, and obesity of the American population are largely to blame, not Trump's lack of response.

Tapper was not having it, and pushed back. Here is a bit of the interview:

TAPPER: I understand that, but we have almost 90,000 Americans who are now dead because of this. I don't think that this is anything to celebrate.

AZAR: Oh, Jake, you can't celebrate a single death. Every death is a tragedy. But the results could have been vastly, vastly worse. It's also important to remember, Jake --

TAPPER: But it's worse for us than it is for anyone else.

AZAR: That's actually not factually correct, when you look at mortality rates as a percent of diagnosed cases.

TAPPER: The number of dead bodies.

AZAR: Every death is tragic, but we have maintained our health care burden within the capacity of our system to actually deal with it. Unfortunately the American population is a very diverse -- it is a population with significant unhealthy co-morbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American, minority communities, particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease health disparities and disease co-morbidities and that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we need to address. But no, the response here in the United States has been historic, to keep this within our health care capacity, even in New York City, to keep this within capacity, is genuinely an historic result.

TAPPER: I want to give you an opportunity to clear it up because it sounded like you were saying the reason there are so many dead Americans is because we're unhealthier than the rest of the world. I know that's not what you meant.

AZAR: Oh, no, we have a significantly disproportionate amount of obesity, diabetes, these make any type of disease burden --

TAPPER: Of course, but that doesn't mean it's the fault of the American people when the administration didn't take adequate steps in February.

AZAR: Please don't distort, Jake, this is about simple epidemiology and stating that if we have hypertension, if we have diabetes, we present with greater risk of severe complications from this coronavirus. That's all I was saying, and you know that. This is not -- one doesn't blame an individual for their health conditions. That would be absurd. It's simply a statement that we do have greater risk profiles here in the United States. And this is why we've all highlighted the Surgeon General, the President, we've highlighted the special disease burden and risk factors in a lot of our communities that we've got to address.

Azar did a quick retreat on his statement, but the insinuation is clear - it's your fault if you die because you are Black, you are fat, and you have other health conditions. Nothing the Trump administration did (or didn't do) made a difference, and how dare you blame us for your bad luck?

This sounds like the excuse that old, white, conservative judges use when dismissing rape charges against upstanding white athletes who rape women because they "dressed like a slut."

Did I get that right?

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