The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, February 28, 2020 1:00 am

Banks, Braun slam politicizing of virus

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Foes of President Donald Trump are searching for a political edge in the coronavirus pandemic, according to two federal lawmakers who represent northeast Indiana.

“You really have to wonder about the mental health of those wishing the economy will spiral and the coronavirus will spread in the hopes that it may have some damaging effect on @realDonaldTrump.” Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, wrote Thursday on Twitter.

He added: “A) It won't” and “B) We should never cheer against USA.”

Asked about whom Banks was referring to, his office mentioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and an opinion column in the New York Times with the headline “Let's Call It Trumpvirus.”

Banks tweeted that Times columnist Gail Collins was “blatantly politicizing a public health crisis” by mocking the Trump administration's handling of the virus threat, including the appointment of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the effort. 

Banks also had a reply for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who tweeted that Pence “literally does not believe in science” and that his appointment “could cost people their lives.” 

Banks wrote: “@VP Pence *literally* is the best person to be in charge of the US coronavirus response. Your politicization of his appointment could cost lives ...”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said Thursday that concern about America's level of preparedness for the virus has been “politicized” and “overdramatized.”

He specifically mentioned Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of “towering and dangerous incompetence” in its handling of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Braun said in an interview with MSNBC's Hallie Jackson: “I think it's kind of sad, Hallie, that we're weaponizing this. It's become a political issue.”

He defended the choice of Pence, who was criticized in 2015 for being slow to respond as Indiana's governor to an HIV outbreak in Scott County.

“He obviously has learned from that and arguably would maybe be in the best spot to know how you deal with this based upon what happened back in Indiana,” Braun told Jackson. 

Braun, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the United States is “going to be prepared as well as any other country to deal with” the spread of the new coronavirus. But he also warned of an increasing likelihood of more pandemics in the years ahead.

“I think the foreboding thing here is this probably won't be the last time we've got a microorganism that gets out of control. ... We've got a long way to go to be fully prepared for this in the world ahead of us,” he said on MSNBC.

bfrancisco@jg.net


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