Trump Campaign advisor Steve Cortes repeatedly ducked Chris Wallace’s question, why did nobody in the Trump family or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows comply with the face mask rules everyone else followed at last week’s debate?
It was bad enough on the face of it that the Trump entourage refused to abide by the debate rules and follow simple health and safety precautions of wearing face masks last week. But in light of Donald Trump’s subsequent case of coronavirus, it’s even worse.
Wallace began the interview by noting that no White House official would come on and discuss the situation. After an upbeat update on Trump’s condition, Wallace confronted Cortes on Trump’s risky and reckless behavior.
Wallace started with Trump’s announcement last weekend of his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, which now looks like a superspreader event. Noting that seven of the attendees have since tested positive for COVID-19, Wallace asked, “Steve, people packed together, the vast majority not wearing masks, how does that make sense?”
Cortes didn’t have a good explanation for that, other than to argue that “tremendous precautions were taken to protect the president” (and the heck with everyone else, apparently). Then he went on with the spin we’re sure to hear over and over again: that since “the most protected person on earth” caught coronavirus, it “shows us that, unfortunately, this virus has that kind of power, that kind of communicable ability.” Meaning that masks and social distancing don’t do the job (even though Cortes had just acknowledged that there is “significant distancing” by anyone who sees Trump) so there's no need to engage in that behavior.
Funny, all or nearly all the recent COVID cases are among Republicans. Or maybe Cortes thinks God has a liberal bias.
Cortes launched his next bit of spin and it sounded very much like the BS that Fox host Greg Gutfeld laid on viewers last week, that Trump got coronavirus because he is bravely taking risks on behalf of the U.S. and leading us through a threat.
CORTES: [T]he president though, and he's made this clear, he was unwilling to completely sequester himself to take no risk because leaders take risks and he is the servant of the people as well as the commander-in-chief and so he said he must be around the people he serves.
And he knew that it was not riskless for him to do so. He could have been hermetically sealed in the residence and been practically guaranteed that he wouldn't get the virus, but instead, he took reasonable risks, not reckless ones but reasonable risks.
Unfortunately he got the virus and I think what this shows us, from a policy perspective, I think this is important, Chris, is that we know that even the most severe of lockdowns cannot completely stop the virus. Therefore, we should take reasonable precautions, as a society, and we should not, as Joe Biden threatens, even think about shutting this economy and this society down again.
Wallace let that laughable nonsense go. He had a more serious point to make.
WALLACE: Steve, let's talk about reasonable risk because there was the debate on Tuesday night, as you say, that I moderated. The rules from the Cleveland Clinic could not have been more clear. Everyone, everyone in the audience, was to wear a mask. The president and the former vice president and I were the only ones exempt from that.
We've got a picture up on the screen after the first family came in, they all took off their masks, so did the White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. Do they think that the health and safety rules for everybody else do not apply to them?
Cortes could not come up with anything close to an answer. He tried to deflect but Wallace was relentless until, finally, Cortes blurted out the truth: the entourage decided “individual choice” trumped (pun intended) the Cleveland Clinic’s rules.
CORTES: No, that's not the reality. Look, everybody was tested before that event, as you well know. Those of us who went first were tested by Cleveland Clinic directly. Everybody who gets on Air Force One for any trip on Air Force One is tested before they get on.
WALLACE: Steve, it doesn't matter. Steve, it doesn’t matter. Everybody that was in that room was tested -- Steve, everybody that was in that room was tested and the Cleveland Clinic's regulation was it didn't matter, everybody except for the three of us on the stage was to wear a mask and people from the Cleveland Clinic came over and offered the first family masks, thinking maybe they didn't have them, they were waved away and the Commission on Presidential Debates has issued a statement saying from now on if you don't wear a mask, you're going to be escorted from the hall.
So forget this question of being tested before --
CORTES: Chris --
WALLACE: -- everybody was tested beforehand -- no, I'm going to finish my question. Everybody was told to wear a mask. Why did the first family and the chief of staff feel that the rules for everybody else didn't apply to them?
CORTES: Chris, we believe that masks are very useful, the president has worn them on many occasions, including visiting the hospital where he's now a patient, when he was visiting as commander in chief as a guest to visit soldiers there he wore a masks. So we believe in masks.
We also believe in some element of individual choice, people were distanced and they had been tested. Both of those things were true in that –
Wallace didn’t let it go at that.
WALLACE: No, Steve, they weren't distanced and there were rules and there was no freedom of choice. They broke the rules. Why did they --
CORTES: Chris, I was there like you were --
CORTES: -- and they were distanced. Those chairs were not close together.
WALLACE: Why did they break the rules?
CORTES: Look, those chairs were not close together and, again, we also believe that people --
WALLACE: It doesn't matter, Steve, the rules from the Cleveland Clinic -- …were everybody wears a mask. Why didn't they?
Cortes obviously didn’t have an answer, so he went on offense by playing the Trump victim, attacking Wallace – and changing the subject.
CORTES: Chris, Chris, the way you're starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during the debate on Tuesday night when he … had to debate not just Joe Biden, but you as well. You were not a neutral moderator then. I don't mind tough questions. I welcome … reasonably tough questions. But what I don't think is OK is for you to become the effective opposition to the president. Okay? … Everyone there was tested in the crowd, they were distanced from each other. People can make reasonable decisions for themselves.
WALLACE: Steve -- no, actually they can't, there are the rules and they will be kicked out next time.
Steve, let me simply say the president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president. I know it's the talking point.
Then Wallace moved on.
You can watch Cortes implicitly acknowledge that the Trump family and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows decided health and safety rules at the debate shouldn't apply to them below, from the October 4, 2020 Fox News Sunday, October 4, 2020.