Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee brushed off on Sunday criticism by President Trump about his state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and instead praised the help Vice President Pence and the federal government have given him in battling the contagion.
“We are very pleased with the federal government helping us right now,” Inslee said, during an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.” “I don’t care what Donald Trump thinks of me and I just kind of ignore it.”
Trump on Saturday called Inslee “a snake” and said he told Pence not be complimentary to him.
“I told Mike [Pence] not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake,” Trump said, during a stop at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “So Mike may be happy with him but I'm not, OK?”
Trump’s comment comes following a tweet by Inslee last month in which the Washington governor said he spoke with Pence – who is heading the White House’s coronavirus task force – and asked the vice president for the administration to stick to facts when discussing the outbreak of the virus. Trump has attempted to downplay the severity of the outbreak and has been roundly criticized for floating his own hunches on when the virus will subside.
“I just received a call from [Pence,] thanking Washington state for our efforts to combat the coronavirus,” Inslee tweeted. “I told him our work would be more successful if the Trump administration stuck to the science and told the truth.”
Responding to Trump’s “snake” comment about him Inslee said Sunday that he’s “focusing on people’s health and not about political gamesmanship right now.”
Pence visited Washington state late last week, where he met with Inslee and pledged that Washington had the White House’s full support in battling the coronavirus.
The state has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with at least 70 confirmed infections and 11 dead. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. Researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.
“As the state of Washington, and the Seattle area in particular, deals with the coronavirus, we're going to continue to make sure that you have the full support of every agency in the federal government," Pence said after touring the state's emergency response center. “We know you're the front line."
The Republican vice president and Democratic governor sought to smooth over their political differences during the former’s visit.
Pence heaped praise on Inslee, who briefly sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year. “We have been working with your governor and with this team in a seamless way," the vice president said.
Asked how he’d now assess Trump’s response one week after he put Pence in charge of the response, Inslee sidestepped the question with Pence standing nearby. "I think we have a very good partnership with thousands of people in the federal government,” Inslee said. “We’re not going to allow some disagreements with any one individual in that government to dissuade us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.