Tucker Carlson shared the details of the trip he took to Mar-a-Lago to warn President Trump in person to take the threat of the coronavirus seriously in a must read interview with Vanity Fair released Tuesday.
From Vanity Fair, "'Dishonesty...Is Always an Indicator of Weakness': Tucker Carlson on How He Brought His Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago":
Though it's hard to believe, Fox News host Tucker Carlson made his very first visit to Mar-a-Lago only a week and a half ago. The resort was hosting a birthday party for former Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, also attended by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, and Donald Trump Jr., —but Carlson wasn't there for the party. He didn't even know about it, he says. Instead he'd come with an urgent message for the president. He was there to pull Donald Trump aside and speak frankly about the dangers of the coronavirus epidemic, the gravity of which had not yet fully registered with Trump or his White House.Read the full interview.
For his troubles, Carlson was actually exposed to the coronavirus, along with Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott, all of whom had been in the room with infected Brazilian officials attending the party.
[...] Vanity Fair: So let's move up to the moment where you decide that it's incumbent upon you to go talk to Trump about the epidemic.
Tucker Carlson: I felt I had a moral obligation to be useful in whatever small way I could, and, you know, I don't have any actual authority. I'm just a talk show host. But I felt—and my wife strongly felt—that I had a moral obligation to try and be helpful to in whatever way possible. I'm not an adviser to the person or anyone else other than my children. And I mean that. And you can ask anybody in the White House or out how many times have I gone to the White House to give my opinion on things. Because I don't do that. And in general I really disapprove of people straying too far outside their lanes and acting like just because they have solid ratings, they have a right to control public policy. I don't believe that. I think it's wrong.
I don't want to be that guy, and I'm not that guy, but I felt under this circumstance that it was something small that I could do. And again, I felt a moral obligation to do it, and I kept it secret because I was embarrassed of it because I thought that it was on some level wrong. [Editor's note: The story of Carlson warning the president about his slow response to the virus leaked to news outlets, including the New York Times.]
What made you think that the time had arrived for this moment?
I kept reading pieces about how easy it was to transmit the virus and I just became obsessed with reading about it, and there was actually a lot of publicly available information, a lot of it speculative, but it was informed speculation in my view. And it led me to think that this could be a massive problem in the United States. And the first thing I thought when I read this was, What about all the people with non-flu-related life-threatening crises who might be denied care because the hospitals are going to be flooded not simply with coronavirus patients, but with people who believe they have coronavirus?
Did anybody from the White House—you have friends that are advisers in the White House—did any of them express concern to you that maybe Trump wasn't fully aware of the crisis?
It was very clear to me that after all the things that have been happening recently—the Russia investigation, impeachment, and then the Democratic primaries—that a lot of people on the Republican side in politics, including in the White House, had been thinking about the world in ideological terms and in political terms. I mean, why wouldn't they? And because of that it was really hard for a lot of people to transition. We spent three and a half years arguing about whether the president was a Russian agent, and he got impeached, and they were in that way of thinking, and it's just hard to transition there. And maybe that's part of the cost of doing that shit, you know what I mean?
[...] And what was your impression? There was a birthday party for a former Fox news host, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and in part you were there for that, right?
I had no idea that was in progress until I walked into it. I had no idea. I didn't know it was her birthday until I walked into the room. My intention was to get in and out of there without being seen by anybody. And I had even asked the Secret Service to help me do that because, again, I was embarrassed that I was doing this and I didn't feel it was my role. I didn't want anyone to know I was doing it.
Was it prearranged that you were going to have an audience with the president?
Yeah, I mean, I had called over there. I have spoken to people there. Yeah.
And so they said there'll be a time for you to go into another room with the president and have a private meeting.
Yeah. It's not like Trump was calling me up and saying, "What do I do?" I mean, that's the opposite of what happened. So it's probably wrong for me to even say that this happened, but I am. But it would definitely be wrong for me to get into details to what they said or anything like that.
Tell me what it is that you conveyed to him.
I said exactly what I've said on TV, which is this could be really bad. My view is that we may have missed the point where we can control it. Once you get cases of community transmission, as we have all over the country now, by then it was clear it was happening. I know someone very well who was in the ICU—a personal friend of mine who I had just had dinner with a month and a half ago was in the ICU with double pneumonia and struggling for life. And so I just want to make it clear this is totally real; people you know are going to get it. And I'm concerned based on conversations I've had that we don't have the medical capacity to deal with it. I think it'd be very hard to keep it from spreading given the nature of American life.
So my concern was that we may not have the capacity to take all these patients and that we may not have the drugs to treat them. And by the way, at this exact moment, two days before the official daily of the Chinese Communist Party issued a threat to the United States: Maybe we'll initiate an embargo on all antibiotics, 97% of which are manufactured in China. So the Chinese government is threatening to shut down our supply of pharmaceuticals. I didn't make that up. That was in print. And if that's not ominous, I'm not sure what it is. If that's not a reminder that we need to have control over the essentials, I don't know what is.
The portrait you're painting here is of Trump in a bubble. Don't you think he was in denial?
I think Trump has a really finely calibrated sense of danger and I think it served him well. I think a lot of the people around him, and I mean broadly around him—particularly Republican members on Capitol Hill, in leadership too—were determined to pretend this wasn't happening. There are a number of members of the Senate who really ought to know better, who, by the way, are at risk of being really hurt by this personally [Note: Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott were both exposed to the virus at Mar-a-Lago]—who were determined to convince him that this was not that big a deal.
And so while I'm not in daily contact with Trump, I do live sometimes in Washington—I know it really well and I know everybody, and I was watching this and I was thinking, That's just wrong. And look, I couldn't have greater contempt for the people who present the news. Most of them. I couldn't have greater contempt. And I mean that. But that doesn't change the truth of what I thought was happening. And the only thing I can control is what I say. And again, I felt like I had to do it, even though I suspected on some level it would probably hurt me if I did it. I thought I should.
[...] [Through a Fox News spokesperson, Carlson said he is "symptom free and feels healthy." He broadcasts from a home studio in Florida.]
Interestingly, Vanity Fair also reported Tuesday that Trump is blaming Jared Kushner for botching his response:
Kushner, according to sources, encouraged Trump to treat the emergency as a P.R. problem when Fauci and others were calling for aggressive action. "This was Jared saying the world needs me to solve another problem," a former White House official said. One source briefed on the internal conversations told me that Kushner advised Trump not to call a national emergency during his Oval Office address on March 11 because "it would tank the markets." The markets cratered anyway, and Trump announced the national emergency on Friday. "They had to clean that up on Friday," another former West Wing official said. Trump was also said to be angry that Kushner oversold Google's coronavirus testing website when in fact the tech giant had a fledgling effort. Trump got slammed in the press for promoting the phantom Google product. "Jared told Trump that Google was doing an entire website that would be up in 72 hours and had 1,100 people working on it 24/7. That's just a lie," the source briefed on the internal conversations told me.The White House denied the report.
[Header image by Gage Skidmore]
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