President Donald Trump dismissed a reporter as “fake news” on Wednesday afternoon when asked to respond to Americans who see him downplaying the coronavirus pandemic and giving statements that differ from what experts are saying about the public health crisis.
The president’s refusal to answer the question from CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta came during a Cabinet Room meeting with banking leaders to talk about the virus’s effect on the economy.
“What do you say to Americans who are concerned that you’re not taking this seriously enough and that some of your statements don’t match what your health experts are saying?” Acosta asked.
“That’s CNN, fake news,” Trump responded, at which several meeting attendees began snickering. The reporting pool was then dismissed from the room.
While he could not be identified in the video, Acosta later confirmed on Twitter that he was the reporter who asked the question.
Acosta and Trump have sparred on several occasions, and the president has often targeted the reporter and CNN in his attacks on the media. During a news conference in New Delhi just last month, Acosta told the president that CNN’s “record on delivering the truth is better than yours sometimes.” Trump hit back saying, “You probably have the worst record in the history of broadcasting.”
The White House briefly revoked Acosta’s press pass in 2018 after a fiery exchange that ended with an administration intern trying to grab a microphone from the reporter.
The president said he will address the nation Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. ET to talk about the government’s response to the pandemic. He said the address will include economic and health announcements, but would not say whether he will issue a national disaster declaration.
So far, Trump has gone out of his way to downplay COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He lied when he said the number of Americans infected with the virus was declining even as health officials told him and the public that it was rising. He said there were enough coronavirus tests for every American, although Vice President Mike Pence ― who’s been leading the administration’s response ― said that wasn’t true. Trump compared a year’s worth of influenza deaths to a few months of COVID-19 deaths, thereby misleading Americans about the disease’s severity.
Earlier on Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared that the world is facing a COVID-19 pandemic, with 118,000 cases globally and more than 4,000 deaths. Wall Street trembled again in light of the news, with the Dow confirming a bear market for the first time since 2008 after closing down more than 20% from its Feb. 12 high.
Public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, have worked to counter Trump’s misinformation about the pandemic. While experts cannot yet predict how many people will be ultimately affected in the U.S., Fauci said on Wednesday that it could be “many millions” if the government and Americans don’t take steps to contain the outbreak.