President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the Oval Office of the White House on October 2, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump will make a rare appearance in the White House briefing room Wednesday for a news conference on the deadly coronavirus outbreak at 6:30 p.m. ET, alongside members of his coronavirus task force.
Trump had announced the event on Twitter on Wednesday morning, saying officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others would appear for the press event.
The event was originally scheduled for 6 p.m., according to the president’s tweet. The White House revealed the updated schedule Wednesday afternoon.
As the administration works to respond to the fast-spreading disease — the first case of which was just confirmed in Latin America — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified before House lawmakers that Trump asked him to make the evening briefing public in order to be transparent.
Trump has rarely appeared in the James S. Brady Briefing Room, where White House press secretaries have traditionally fielded questions from the press. The last official press briefing, however, was nearly a year ago during the tenure of former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The current press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, has never held an official press briefing.
Hours before the presser was scheduled to begin, Politico reported that the White House was considering appointing a coronavirus czar. Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb was among a handful of officials being discussed for the role, according to Politico’s report, which cited two people familiar with the matter.
But Azar pushed back on the report. “I don’t anticipate” a czar being appointed, Azar said during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. “This is working extremely well.”
The White House also denied Politico’s report.
Trump revealed the Wednesday evening news conference on Twitter after attacking media for “panicking markets” through their coverage of the virus.
The rapid spread of the virus, which has killed more than 2,700 people and infected tens of thousands more, has rattled governments and markets around the world. Stocks plunged Monday and Tuesday plunged in one of the worst two-day trading sessions in years.
The president’s tweet also included a mocking reference to MSNBC, which on Wednesday morning played a clip of CNBC’s interview with White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow from a day earlier.
Kudlow said in that clip that the U.S. has “contained” the coronavirus. “I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,” he said.
Those comments, which came just hours after the CDC warned Americans to start preparing for the possibility of a pandemic, quickly garnered criticism and failed to contain the hemorrhaging markets.
Trump in his tweets also lashed out at Democrats, who have criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus so far, for being “all talk, no action” on the outbreak.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion coronavirus budget request as “too little too late.”
Schumer took the Senate floor Tuesday to lambast Trump. “The harsh fact of the matter is, the Trump administration has shown towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus,” Schumer said.