NBC’s Chuck Todd challenged President Biden for how he’s handled the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in light of the new omicron variant that has prompted the White House to ban travel from several African countries, beginning Monday.
Todd, host of “Meet the Press,” suggested that omicron, from which most cases were discovered in southern Africa, was not just a health problem. It’s a political one as well for the current administration, he argued, flashing back to when Biden “prematurely” declared a sort of victory over the virus on July 4.
“Ultimately, this is also a political problem,” Todd said Sunday. “Biden ran on taming the pandemic and he prematurely declared independence from the virus back in July.”
Biden announced that the U.S. had achieved the “upper hand” against the coronavirus from the South Lawn of the White House in July 2021. But within days of his speech, the highly contagious delta variant spread through the country and led to hundreds of thousands more infections. More Americans were found to have died from the disease in 2021 than in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Todd said more of the same earlier on NBC’s “Sunday Today,” telling host Willie Geist that it seemed Biden has not been properly leading in the battle against the virus.
“One of the things about his COVID response, over the last couple of months, it can be argued he has not been the face of the COVID response, not in some time,” Todd said. “Not really since we declared our – back in July, when he declared our independence from the virus, obviously prematurely.”
But Todd also pointed fingers at Republican politicians who have been fighting against vaccine mandates. He suggested Biden needs to use his “bully pulpit” to push back on “vaccine misinformation” because none of his political agenda will pass until he does.
“This is a reminder he needs to be more front and center on the COVID response than he has been so far,” Todd said.
The newest strain of the virus, omicron, which has been detected in at least 10 countries, has been described by experts as highly contagious, yet it is largely unknown whether it comes with mild or severe symptoms. Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a board member of the South African Medical Association who first reported the presence of the variant, said it presents “unusual but mild” symptoms.
Omicron still has no documented cases in the U.S., but some experts have suggested it’s already in the country. The Biden administration announced on Friday that it was restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
Biden also previously declared that former President Trump’s pandemic-prompted travel ban from China was “xenophobic.”
“We need to lead the way with science – not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering,” Biden tweeted at the time.