Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday to discuss how the State Department is handling travel advisories for American citizens during the coronavirus outbreak.
While the focus of most media outlets has zeroed in on Pompeo's reference to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” despite Chinese objections, the entire segment was combative. The CNBC panel consistently framed questions negatively toward the Trump administration's response, while heaping praise on the success of the Chinese communist regime.
At one point, Joe Kernen, one of the co-hosts of Squawk Box, asked Pompeo if it's possible to have the same level of “success here with our civil liberties,” implying coronavirus can only be contained with authoritarian measures, and that Americans should be willing to surrender constitutional rights “that we take for granted.”
The question may as well have been written by Chinese propagandists. Just last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in speaking about measures taken to combat COVID-19, told the Munich Security Conference, “China's speed, scale, and efficiency all reflect the advantage of China's system.” Sound familiar?
Watch the full interview below.
From a State Department transcript:
QUESTION: The restaurants are – there’s people in restaurants again. People are going back to work. It almost looks like China has had some success in dealing with this and capping it. We would hope that that could happen in other countries around the world including the United States, but we’re told that we don’t have the same type of capability to quarantine people because we’re not as authoritarian as the Chinese Government, as the Communist Party. Could we have a similar success here with our civil liberties that we take for granted?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’m confident we can handle it here. I’m confident that we’ll handle it better than any nation in the world. I’m happy you complimented the Chinese Communist Party today, but remember this is the —
QUESTION: Oh, I’m not complimenting.
SECRETARY POMPEO: this is the Wuhan coronavirus
QUESTION: Right, right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: — that’s caused this, and the information that we got at the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve. And that’s not the right – it’s not the way infectious disease doctors tell me it should work. It’s not the way America works with the transparency and openness and the sharing of the information that needs to take place. It has proven incredibly frustrating to work with the Chinese Communist Party to get our hands around the data set which will ultimately be the solution to both getting the vaccine and attacking this risk.
QUESTION: The Chinese Government is now pushing back, and again, Eunice Yoon has been reporting some of what they’ve put in the state-run media, where they say that it’s not clear that this even came from China at this point, and that they’re mad at the United States for not thanking them for the efforts they’ve taken to try and slow it down to this point. What do you say to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m happy about the efforts that they have taken, but no less authority than the Chinese Communist Party said it came from Wuhan. So don’t take Mike Pompeo’s word for it. We have pretty high confidence that we know where this began, and we have high confidence too that there was information that could have been made available more quickly and data that could have been provided and shared among health professionals across the world. It’s most unfortunate.