President Donald Trump joked at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing about getting rid of all the reporters he does not like, causing a least one member of the media to characterize the quip as an “attack.”
During the briefing, a reporter asked the president if he had “any guidance for Congress” after two congressmen announced they had tested positive for the virus.
Trump instead directed his advice, partially tongue-in-cheek, to the reporters in the briefing room.
“I know all of them,” he said of Congress. “I don’t know if they’re sitting like you people are sitting. You’re actually sitting too close.”
“Really, we should probably get rid of about another 75, 80 percent of you,” the president said.
“I’ll have just two or three that I like in this room. I think that’s a great way of doing it. We just figured a new way of doing it. But you’re actually much too close, you should leave immediately.”
The president spoke the day after two members of the House announced they had been inflicted with the disease.
“On Saturday evening, after returning from Washington, D.C., I developed mild cold-like symptoms. In consultation with my doctor on Sunday, I immediately isolated myself in my home,” Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah said Wednesday.
— Rep. Ben McAdams (@RepBenMcAdams) March 19, 2020
“I have been conducting all meetings by telephone. My symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, dry cough and labored breathing and I remained self-quarantined.
“On Tuesday, my doctor instructed me to get tested for COVID-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic for the test,” the congressman said.
“Today I learned that I tested positive. I am still working for Utahns and pursuing efforts to get Utahns the resources they need as I continue doing my job from home until I know it is safe to end my self-quarantine. I’m doing my part as all Americans are doing to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.
“I urge Utahns to take this seriously and follow the health recommendations we’re getting from the CDC and other health experts so that we can recover from this public health threat,” he concluded.
Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also announced Wednesday he had tested positive.
I’d like to thank all of my friends and colleagues for their well-wishes as I recover from #COVID2019. With that being said, I continue to reiterate the seriousness of this pandemic and urge you to stay home and follow the @CDCgov‘s recommendations.
— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) March 19, 2020
As for Trump’s joke, at least one member of the media did not take it such.
Vox journalist (and we are using that term generously) Aaron Rupar shared video of Trump’s remarks on Twitter, writing in the caption: “TRUMP attacks reporters.”
TRUMP attacks reporters: “You’re actually sitting too close. We should probably get rid of about another 75-80 percent of you. I’ll have just two or three of you that I like in this room. I think that’s a great way of doing it.” pic.twitter.com/30ucSn9JSQ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 19, 2020
It is no surprise that at least one reporter had to clutch his pearls in horror at the quip.
The media is not known for having a sense of humor when it comes to Trump.
Still, his joke has some truth to it.
Some in the media have questioned how wise it is for the president to be close to others on stage during his briefings.
Yet White House reporters aren’t all that far apart from one another in the briefing room.
Perhaps they’d rather catch the coronavirus and blame it on Trump’s briefing than avoid the disease.
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