White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made a lame attempt to defend VP Mike Pence's decision to continue going out on the campaign trail despite the fact that he's been directly exposed to aides who have tested positive for coronavirus, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that Pence is exempt from CDC guidelines because he's an “essential” worker.
Here's more of the testy exchange during Meadows' appearance on this Sunday's State of the Union.
MEADOWS: That's correct.
TAPPER: So CDC guidelines say that Vice President Pence should quarantine for 14 days. Now I understand the White House is trying to get around that by saying the vice president is an essential worker. But Mark, how is going all over the country, how is that—campaigning—how is that essential work? It's not like he's helping to contain the virus. In fact, the opposite. He's holding rallies that could be spreading the virus.
MEADOWS: Well, actually, he's not just campaigning. He's working. We saw a Middle East peace agreement with Sudan in the Oval Office the president engaged in. And for anybody to suggest that the president has been out campaigning and not getting things done, all you have to do is look at the facts.
TAPPER: He was at a campaign rally in Tallahassee. He was just at a campaign rally in Tallahassee.
MEADOWS: I'm not saying he is not campaigning. I'm saying that is only part of what he is doing and as we look at that, essential personnel, whether it's the vice president of the United States or anyone else, has to continue –
TAPPER: But he's not following CDC guidelines.
MEADOWS: Jake, CDC guidelines does say essential personnel.
TAPPER: Yes, it says wear a mask, if they wear a mask.
MEADOWS: And I spoke to the vice president last night at midnight and I can tell you that what he is doing is wearing a mask, socially distancing and when he goes up to speak he will take the mask off and put it back on.
But he's wearing a mask as it relates to this particular thing because the doctors have advised him to do that. And so, Jake, when we start to look at this, you know, here is where we really need to make sure. On your website yesterday, Jake, you know, your website is talking about well now we think the spread is coming from small social groups and family groups. First it was large groups. Now it's small groups.
TAPPER: It's coming from all sorts of places because the pandemic is out of control.
MEADOWS: So here's what we have to do. We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations --
TAPPER: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?
MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.
TAPPER: Yeah, but why not make efforts to contain it?
MEADOWS: Well we are making efforts to contain it.
TAPPER: By running all over the country not wearing a mask? That's what vice president is doing.
MEADOWS: Let me just say this. What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure that people don't die from this. But to suggest that we are going to actually quarantine all of America --
TAPPER: No one's saying that.
For those trying to keep count, that makes 40 positive cases in 4 weeks for this White House.