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Trump’s COVID Incompetence Jeopardizes Full Functioning Of The Press

The White House press corps is reportedly furious with the Trump administration for endangering their lives with its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and several are now staying away as much as possible.
Trump’s COVID Incompetence Jeopardizes Full Functioning Of The Press
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds press conference on September 24, 2020 Image from: Getty Images

CNN spoke to nine White House correspondents:

[O]ver the past week, the exasperation has hit a crescendo. Even after President Donald Trump and several of his top aides tested positive for the virus, the White House still declined to adopt many of the rudimentary health guidelines it recommends to the public.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary who announced Monday that she had tested positive for the coronavirus, spoke to reporters without a mask just the day before. Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, also spoke on Sunday to reporters without wearing a mask. And last week, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, spoke with reporters without a mask.

"It's not a safe place to work and hasn't been in a long time," said a third reporter. "They don't wear masks. They clearly haven't cared as much as they should have for seven months -- large meetings, large rallies, large everything. No masks on planes. Inconsistent testing. Every life reliant on a rapid testing system that doesn't really work. And they have mocked and attacked us for pointing that out repeatedly."

There’s no doubt the White House behavior is stunningly reckless and inexcusable. I sympathize with the reporters who feel the White House Correspondents Association’s response has been way too meek, as the article later discusses.

But as awful as it is to be endangering reporters’ lives, the malfeasance is another way that Trump is endangering our democracy. Whether deliberate or not, putting reporters’ lives at risk also puts reporting and the public's right to know at risk. More from CNN:

"I felt safer reporting in North Korea than I currently do at the White House," tweeted another reporter, Ben Tracy of CBS News. "This is just crazy."

One reporter who spoke to CNN Business expressed worry about being at the White House and traveling with the President even after he recovers, given how the last week has exposed the White House's lack of transparency on the coronavirus.

"Before this happened you could trust that we are getting tested and the President and his aides are being tested so we will probably be fine," the reporter said. "This last week makes you wonder if that's actually the case.

I have faith that one way or the other, reporters will continue to cover the White House. But how far they will be hampered by concerns for their own health and safety is another question.

Worse, almost the entire federal government has been hobbled thanks to Trump’s failures. The White House has become a coronavirus hotspot, with senior policy adviser Stephen Miller as its latest victim. CNN described the West Wing as “largely vacant because staffers keep testing positive.”

On top of that, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with several members of the Pentagon's senior leadership are quarantining after a top Coast Guard official tested positive for coronavirus.

Three Republican senators have also tested positive. It seems like every hour, another senior level official has tested positive and/or is in quarantine.

And now it may be harder to know just how bad it is because it’s too dangerous for reporters to go to the White House, too.

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