Fox Business host Lou Dobbs confronted Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar over the coronavirus threat and his refusal to call it a “pandemic.”
Dobbs challenged Azar in a heated exchange on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” Monday as he declared he didn’t want to “play games” and demanded answers from the federal government over the response to the virus which has claimed the lives of six Americans.
(Source: Fox Business)
“There did seem to be a different tone today in Washington as it’s becoming clearer what the nation will likely face,” Dobbs began the segment. “Officials seem to be a little bit more candid than perhaps they had been. Is there really a change here?”
“I don’t know that I’d call it a change, I’d say the message remains transparent but one of confidence. What we’re saying is what we’ve been saying…” Azar attempted to respond before Dobbs cut in.
“Why not then call it a pandemic? Because you know very well it is,” he said.
“Well, in fact, I spoke today with Dr. [Adhanom] Tedros, the head of the World Health Organization, and I’ll give you some insight into their thinking…” Azar told the Fox Business host who effectively cut him off.
“I’m not interested in their thinking, to be candid with you,” Dobbs shot back.
“You’re responsible for your department, the NIH and the CDC are responsible for the public’s health,” he said. “I’m delighted to speak to you, sir, and delighted to have the opportunity, but I could care less what the World Health Organization has to say to what is happening to Americans and how this government is being led.”
Azar argued that an “irrelevant” discussion on the choice of words in describing the coronavirus outbreak would ultimately make no difference to the handling of the threat by President Trump and his administration.
“You tell me, what does it subtract if you don’t?” Dobbs asked, but Azar went on to relay the efforts to secure masks for health workers.
“That is wonderful. And at the same time, do we have tests that are now available here in this country?” Dobbs interjected, “to the degree that we need them? Because the ratio, as I see it, there’s a better ratio of testing for the coronavirus in other countries than we maintain here. We’re actually screening fewer people because we don’t have appropriate testing.”
Though Azar asserted that a valid test existed, Dobbs pushed back by noting failed test kits and the spread of the virus.
“Lou, actually, the tests worked. The tests work, they are validated. What happened was there were some manufacturing issues, apparently, in one stage of the test, and some labs were not able to validate it. We solved that issue. We’ve gotten the…” Azar explained but Dobbs had lost all patience.
“I don’t want to play games with you, and I’m sure you don’t want to with me,” he interrupted. “But when you use words like validated and then say one segment of their use was invalidated by problems, you know, it just — this is not transparency that the American people want.”
“Well, Lou, you don’t want to hear it, but we’ve been transparent at every step of the way,” Azar fired back, prompting Dobbs to call him out.
“Mr. Secretary, I apologize. I apologize, but, frankly, you’ve just said that you had plenty, and now you’re acknowledging that you didn’t,” he said.
“I don’t want to get bogged down in this, I mean, I really don’t, but I do want to understand how bad is this going to get,” he added, saying viewers “want to know the facts…hard-boiled, straightforward, no sugar-coating and no pedantics.”
“My concern is how much the American people are being told that they need to know, and that is, I think, everything,” Dobbs pressed when Azar’s response still did not hit the mark.
“In fact, we just in 2017 updated what’s called the pandemic action plan. That’s a public document that goes through how one deals with a pandemic…” Azar responded.
“Wait a minute, did you say pandemic?” Dobbs asked.
“That is what we prepare for, pandemic status of this…” Azar began as Dobbs asked, “Do we have one?”
“In spite of how you’ve been describing it, Lou, for everyday Americans right now this shouldn’t impact their daily lives. They should go about their normal lives…” the HHS secretary said, attempting to quell fears.
“How did I describe it? I missed that part. How did I describe it?” Dobbs interrupted as Azar concluded that he was “just trying to whip people up into a frenzy here, Lou.”
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