Biden hammers Trump over coronavirus response: ‘The virus was too big for him’

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Joe Biden on Monday tore into President Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the president “panicked” in the face of an outbreak that has so far claimed nearly 200,000 lives in the U.S. alone.

Speaking at a campaign stop in Manitowoc, Wis., the former vice president mourned the climbing death toll from COVID-19, blaming Trump for publicly downplaying the threat posed by the pandemic despite privately acknowledging the dangers of the virus.

“We hear him privately saying this is a deadly virus, far more deadly than any flu, but that’s not what he was saying to us publicly,” Biden said. “Publicly he told us it was just like the flu and it would disappear in the warm weather, just like a miracle. It was all a lie. He knew it. What’s his explanation? He said he didn’t want to see the American people panic. He didn’t want to panic them.”

“Trump panicked,” he added. “The virus was too big for him.”

Biden’s remarks came as the U.S. nears a grim milestone in its struggle with the coronavirus pandemic; nearly 200,000 people have died in the U.S. since the outbreak began.

He predicted that the situation could worsen in the coming months. 

“Due to Donald Trump’s lies and incompetence, in the past six months [we] have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history,” he said. “Sadly, it’s not over. As awful as the past 180 days have been, the next 90 days could be twice as bad.”

Biden’s comments came after the journalist Bob Woodward released a recording of an interview with Trump conducted earlier this year in which the president acknowledged the danger posed by the virus while publicly downplaying it. Trump has said he did so to avoid causing “panic.”

Notably absent from Biden’s speech, however, was any mention of the fight over the Supreme Court seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday at the age of 87. 

Trump has said he plans to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement quickly, with an announcement expected as soon as Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, has said that he will hold a confirmation hearing for and vote on Trump’s eventual nominee, bucking his previous assertion four years ago that the president should not nominate a new Supreme Court justice in an election year.

The plan to move forward with replacing Ginsburg on the court less than two months before Election Day has infuriated Democrats and injected more uncertainty into an already chaotic and bitter election year. For his part, Biden has said that the Senate should not vote on Ginsburg’s replacement until January and in a speech on Sunday urged Senate Republicans to “follow your conscience.”

Biden’s speech on Monday focused instead on Trump’s job performance and character. He contrasted Trump’s background as a wealthy real estate mogul in New York with his own upbringing in Scranton, Pa., and accused Trump of exploiting working-class people for political gain. 

“The simple truth is that Donald Trump ran for office saying he would represent the forgotten men and women in this country. And when he got into office, he forgot us,” Biden said. “The truth is he never really respected us very much.”

Tags 2020 election Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Ruth Bader Ginsburg Wisconsin

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