Trump acknowledges poor press relationship on coronavirus

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE on Tuesday acknowledged that his administration has done a poor job managing its relationship with the press as it seeks to get information out about the coronavirus, a startling admission from a president loath to admit a mistake.

“We’ve done a poor job on press relationships, and I guess, I don’t know who to blame for that,” Trump said at a White House briefing, where he again said he thought his administration's response to the coronavirus crisis had been strong.

“Maybe I can blame ourselves for that. I will blame ourselves," he said of the news coverage. "But I think we've done a great job. I think we’ve done a poor job in terms of press relationship.”

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Trump was responding to a question about criticism of his administration’s response to the pandemic from Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage The Memo: Trump grows weak as clock ticks down Nina Turner addresses Biden's search for a running mate MORE.

After chiding the Obama administration for its handling of the swine flu outbreak, Trump asserted that his White House has done a “fantastic job,” citing travel restrictions in particular, and that the press refuses to cover it. 

“The only thing we haven’t done well is to get good press,” he said. “We’ve done a fantastic job but it hasn’t been appreciated.” 

Trump frequently decries negative coverage as “fake news,” and has described certain outlets as the “enemy of the people.” But earlier in the briefing, Trump signaled he believes the press coverage of the coronavirus has been broadly fair, echoing statements he has made in recent days. 

The president for a second consecutive day appeared serious and somber in discussing the quickly spreading virus, which has killed dozens of Americans and infected hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Observers noted Trump’s shift in tone on Monday, which came after weeks of him downplaying the severity of the coronavirus and insisting it would dissipate soon.

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“I didn’t feel different. I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic,” Trump insisted on Tuesday when asked what led to the change, saying he didn’t feel a shift in his tone. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.”

“There was no difference yesterday from days before,” he added. “I feel the tone is similar, but some people said it wasn’t.”

The president offered praise for Govs Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Man dies one day after saying he contracted COVID-19 because of his own 'stupidity' as family blames pace of reopening Single-day US coronavirus infections top 50,000 for first time MORE (D-Calif.) for their work combatting the virus in their respective states, extending a rare olive branch to two men he has regularly picked fights with. And he lauded bipartisan progress in Congress on efforts to address the impact of the coronavirus. 

“We’re all in this together, including you,” Trump said, gesturing to reporters. He suggested the work between Democrats and Republicans has been a silver lining of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Trump’s remarks came as his administration is seeking support from Congress on a $850 billion economic stimulus package to stem the economic fallout of the outbreak. The coronavirus has infected thousands of Americans and killed roughly 90 people as of Friday morning.

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But Trump has struggled to stay entirely on message. In the last 24 hours he has swiped at Cuomo and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) and chastised The New York Times.

Asked Tuesday about critical comments from Biden, Trump drifted into commentary on the Democratic debate from two nights earlier and slammed the Obama administration. 

“I want it to be bipartisan, and nobody’s going to be better than me, but when they attack me or the people behind me i’m not going to let them get away with it. I can't do that.”

“I only do that when I have to respond,” Trump said, noting that he would continue to respond when he feels Democrats are attacking his administration. “They have the media on their side and I don’t. I just have me.”