The White House on Thursday defended senior adviser Jared Kushner after he faced backlash for calling the federal response to the coronavirus a “great success story,” even as the death toll in the U.S. surpassed 60,000.
“I think Jared has been taken entirely out of context,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.
McEnany argued that Kushner was referring to the government’s mobilization of industry to produce and secure supplies like ventilators after states like New York warned they would need thousands of the machines to meet expected needs.
“Not a single American died in this country for lack of a ventilator,” McEnany said. “I would call that response a success.”
President Trump has in recent days touted U.S. ventilator production, saying excess machines would be sent to other countries facing shortages.
The president’s son-in-law on Wednesday was upbeat about the government’s work in combating the coronavirus, which has infected more than 1 million people in the U.S.
“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed,” Kushner told Fox News. “So the federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story, and I think that’s really what needs to be told.”
The comments drew criticism given that the number of cases and deaths in the U.S. are still rising each day. The Trump administration has faced intense scrutiny for its slow rollout of testing and for repeatedly putting the burden on states to secure personal protective equipment and other supplies.
Trump has personally faced criticism for downplaying the severity of the virus. He frequently compared it to influenza in January and February, predicted the coronavirus would dissipate with warm weather in April and would one day disappear “like a miracle.”
The president again suggested on Wednesday that the virus could go away even without a vaccine, a statement at odds with medical experts who have warned the coronavirus is likely to impact American life for months and even years to come.