Six Months Ago Today, Pence Wrote Op-Ed Saying There’s No ‘Coronavirus Second Wave’ and That Media ‘Panic’ Was ‘Overblown’

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Vice President Mike Pence was named the head of the White House coronavirus task force in February, and back in June — six months ago today — he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal insisting that the media worry about a coronavirus “second wave” was just overblown.

“There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” the headline read, as the vice president actually insisted, “Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”

The op-ed was very clearly trying to respond to the media coverage highlighting the alarming spread of the virus, saying the news is just “tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different.”

“The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering,” Pence wrote.

The Pence op-ed was widely criticized at the time, and was even fact-checked by one of the Journal’s own reporters. Here you can compare the metrics from the COVID Tracking Project from June 16th and just yesterday:

Right now there is, of course, good news on the horizon. The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved, the Moderna vaccine is likely being approved soon, more could be coming, and millions of doses are being sent all over the country to frontline workers. (Pence himself is getting the vaccine in days.) Even some critics of the Trump administration have credited the successes of Operation Warp Speed.

But the year is ending with a grim winter surge across the country. As of this week, 300,000 Americans have died, there have been over 16.5 million cases, and hospitalizations have totaled over 100,000 for days now. It’s getting worse in practically every state.

Last week CBS News obtained a report from the coronavirus task force that said in no uncertain terms, “This surge is the most rapid increase in cases; the widest spread of intense transmission, with more than 2,000 counties in COVID red zones; and the longest duration of rapid increase, now entering its 8th week, that we have experienced.”

“Despite the severity of this surge and the threat to the hospital systems, many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge; that must happen now,” the report read.

And recently, CDC Director Robert Redfield warned the U.S. may be looking at thousands of deaths for the next 60-90 days, even with vaccines on the way.

Back in August, the vice president was confronted on his rosy June assessment trying to insist the media’s just being hysterical. CNN’s John Berman noted one estimate saying the death toll could be up to 300,000 by the end of the year before asking, “On June 16th, you wrote, ‘We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.’ And you said the panic is overblown… Since then, 53,000 more Americans have died. More than 3 million more Americans have been infected with coronavirus. How was the concern overblown?”

Pence responded:

“At that time, as you well remember, we were seeing cases declining from the dramatic rise in cases and the loss of nearly 2500 Americans a day at the height of this pandemic. And most of our scientists believe that we were well on our way toward lowering cases and that perhaps the coronavirus, like the flu, would be seasonal, and that we would have a summer respite, but some time around Memorial Day, things changed.”

When Berman directly asked Pence if he was wrong in his op-ed, Pence responded by saying CNN got things wrong too and that “we’ve all been learning all along the way about this coronavirus.”

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