WH trade adviser Navarro clashes with CNN anchor, tells her to cover pandemic 'without frightening America'
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White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro had a testy exchange with CNN anchor Brianna Keilar on Thursday as they discussed the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
At one point, Navarro told Keilar that CNN should report on the virus in "a sober way without frightening America and just having reasonable conversations when somebody from the White House comes on, instead of just shouting in our ear."
The interview turned contentious when Navarro sought to bring up the Obama administration's record on pandemic preparedness.
"Let me bring you up on the history here of what we inherited," Navarro told Keilar. "In '09, when the Biden and Obama administration had the H1N1 flu crisis ...
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Keilar interjected: "Peter, why are you wasting your time on this and not solving the problem that you have? Peter, why are you even talking about this?"
"You made the claim that this administration was ill-prepared," Navarro responded, but Keilar protested that she didn't. In her initial question, Keilar had pointed out the discrepancy between America's capacity for ventilators and what experts said might be needed.
"That's a fact Peter. That is a fact, Peter," she said.
At this point, Navarro raised his hands in apparent frustration, saying: "I'm trying to respond and you keep interrupting me," he said. In response, Keilar pressed Navarro on whether he would answer the question about ventilators.
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"That's the problem," Navarro said. "We have woken up to the fact that we did not have adequate materials in our stockpiles and more importantly, all of our supply chain is spread out across the world at a time when 10 out of the top 20 countries that provide us with pharmaceuticals are imposing export restrictions."
He added that the administration was moving quickly to address the issue. "But don't tell me that we were ill-prepared for this," he told Keilar, "because we inherited a system of testing, we inherited a system of stockpiles that was woefully inadequate for this and there was plenty of people [in the] last two administrations who had wake-up calls and they went back to sleep."
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Keilar maintained that Navarro was "wasting everyone's time." "It's 2020," she added, "the president was elected in 2016. Can you get to a million ventilators?"
Navarro replied that the 1 million figure was "way, way, way" out of proportion and said the administration would do its best to quickly obtain ventilators, adding that Keilar was "frightening" people with a high estimate.
"Peter," she replied, "if you think that speaking in facts and truth is frightening to people, you have a problem."