(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump began his remarks at a Fox News “virtual town hall” on the coronavirus outbreak by attacking his likely re-election opponent, Joe Biden, and misleading viewers about restrictions he ordered on Chinese travelers to the U.S.
“I made a decision to close off to China,” Trump said on the program Tuesday. “That was weeks early, and honestly I took a lot of heat. Sleepy Joe Biden said it’s xenophobic, I don’t know if he knows what that means but that’s OK. He said it’s racist what I did.”
He added that “thousands and thousands of more people, probably tens of thousands, would be dead right now if I didn’t make that decision.”
Trump’s portrayal of his China order isn’t accurate, and there’s no record of Biden specifically criticizing the decision.
Trump’s Jan. 31 order restricted travel from China, routing planes to at first seven and then 11 U.S. airports where passengers underwent enhanced health screening. And Biden never specifically called the restrictions xenophobic or racist, though he has said it is racist for Trump to call the disease the “Chinese virus” and said Jan. 31 that Trump has a “record of hysteria and xenophobia -- hysterical xenophobia -- and fear-mongering.”
Trump went on to congratulate himself for the decision.
“Call it luck or call it talent, it doesn’t matter, we made a great decision,” he said.
Asked about Trump’s remarks later in an interview on CNN, Biden responded: “What a piece of work.”
Biden said he had advocated for the U.S. to demand access to the Hubei area in the early stages of the outbreak. “We had a person in China that worked for the administration,” Biden said. “I think he got fired or got brought home.”
Reuters reported on March 22 that the Trump administration eliminated a public health position in Beijing. The disease expert was embedded in China’s disease control agency to help detect outbreaks in China. It isn’t clear whom the former vice president was referring to.
“What is he doing?” Biden said of Trump. “He started off -- you go back and look at all his comments, about China is doing the right thing, China is doing a great thing, China is right along, China’s this, China’s that. I mean, come on. This is bizarre.”
(Updates with report on elimination of public health position in Beijing in 10th paragraph)
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