When CBS’s “60 Minutes” pressed the Trump administration’s Peter Navarro Sunday on the federal government’s preparedness for Covid-19, Navarro challenged “60 Minutes” to produce evidence that they had predicted a global pandemic that would warrant an economic shutdown.
“60 Minutes” Correspondent Bill Whitaker prefaced footage of his interview with Navarro, trade adviser turned Defense Production Act policy coordinator, with the claim Navarro was more interested in questioning CBS’s record than answering questions. By the end of the segment, “60 Minutes” producers were so giddy to include footage from 2005 discussing the H1N1 virus and from 2009 discussing the H5N1 virus that they didn’t realize it proved Navarro’s point exactly.
“I challenge you. Show me the ’60 Minutes’ episode a year ago, two years ago, or during the Obama administration, during the Bush administration that said, ‘Hey, global pandemic is coming. You gotta do X, Y, and Z. And by the way, we have to shut down the entire global economy to fight it,'” Navarro said. “Show me that episode and then you will have some credence in terms of attacking the Trump administration for not being prepared.”
“I guarantee you we do,” said Whitaker, before cutting to the “60 Minutes” clips from 2005 and 2009.
These clips from more than 15 and 11 years ago, respectively, not only show that CBS was just as caught off guard by a global pandemic as the Trump administration, going more than a decade without addressing the topic, but that their previous virus reporting never imagined the drastic economic damage the current coronavirus outbreak has caused.
Navarro pointed out that intelligence agencies may have warned of pandemics for years but no one took them seriously. “Why? Well, black swans are hard to sell. This was the 500-year flood. This hasn’t happened since 1917. You could line up every president since then and say, ‘Why didn’t you think this could happen again?'”
The “60 Minutes” footage included from 2005 features an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was at the National Institute of Health at the time. “I don’t see it as an exercise because it could be the big one,” Fauci said then, of federal government preparations. “It could be, and if it is our rushing around doing what we need to do, pushing the envelope is not for nought or in vain.”
The Fauci interview reiterates Navarro’s point. Even with someone like Fauci in the Trump administration, whose career is dedicated to anticipating global pandemics, the federal government would have never been able to fully prepare for the needed 3.5 billion high-grade N95 respirators, or the 16.8 million unemployment claims. In fact, even Fauci downplayed the current pandemic as late as Feb. 29, telling Americans, “At this moment, there’s no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day by day basis. Right now the risk is still low.”
“60 Minutes” may have been able to unearth episodes discussing previous threatening viruses, but not in the last decade, and even then, not in the economic context Navarro discusses. Their crafty segment does not lend them the credence to attack the Trump administration like they think it does.