Former presidential adviser David Gergen accused President Trump of using his coronavirus news briefings as propaganda and warned they could “really hurt” him in the end.
The CNN commentator spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday about the latest on the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the president “shouldn’t be briefing every day.”
Blitzer asked Gergen on Sunday’s “The Situation Room” if he thought the nation would see the current COVID-19 crisis as another emergency it has faced such as Pearl Harbor.
“Do you think this could be a moment like that as well?” the CNN anchor asked.
“It could,” Gergen replied, “Donald Trump’s going to have to lift his game to do that, but he is Commander-in-Chief, and this is a moment when he needs to go before the public,” Gergen said, going on to refer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s “Day of Infamy” speech after Pearl Harbor.
The US surgeon general warned that the coming week would be the “hardest and the saddest” for “most Americans’ lives,” and spoke of the coming days as a “Pearl Harbor moment.”
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country and I want America to understand that,” Vice Admiral Jerome Adams said on “Fox News Sunday.”
(Source: Fox News)
Gergen, who served during the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton contended that in the coming days, the “tone of these press briefings really ought to change.”
“They ought to be more serious. They ought to be less self-congratulatory. They ought to be straight talk,” he said, adding that Trump “ought to go before the country and rally people together.”
“So far, he has been sending out mixed messages. One day he seems to want to get serious about the public health side. The next day, he undercuts it. He announces in the same briefing everybody ought to wear a mask, but I’m not going to do it,” Gergen said. “This is a moment when he can revisit and change his course or get himself on a firmer course that he can be on for the next few months.”
He argued that the nation needs “to be rallied by a speech that’s both realistic but offers some hope and is not self-congratulatory.”
Blitzer cited examples of what he called the “mixed messaging” coming from the administration as Gergen contended that it was “confusing” and gave people an excuse to ignore the experts’ recommendations. He claimed Trump needs to “make a stronger appeal to his own base” and go forward as “one nation.”
“The president needs to embrace that and bring the base along. It’s one of the biggest contributions he could make is to rally his own supporters. Toughen up, hunker down, shelter. Let’s get through this,” Gergen told Blitzer.
“Do you think the president should still personally be giving these press briefings, the coronavirus task force briefings, or leave it to the experts to do the talking?” the CNN host asked.
“These press briefings have, frankly, become a form of propaganda. And they’re increasingly seen as that,” Gergen responded.
“And I think they’re beginning to really hurt the president. I would think that his own advisers ought to say, this isn’t really working,” he said. “You need to get him in, get him out of there in the first three to five minutes, then let the experts go at it. You can always bring him on when there’s something new and big. He shouldn’t be briefing every day.”
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