Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy reacts to Trump’s coronavirus response.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., praised President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus threat Wednesday night, just a day after he criticized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for underestimating the virus and failing to properly prepare for a pandemic.
“I’m so pleased that he did it. I was impressed by the fact that the president and his team answered all questions straight up. When they didn’t know an answer, they didn’t speculate, they said, ‘We don’t know that yet,'” Kennedy added.
The president announced he was putting Vice President Mike Pence “in charge” of prevention efforts, effective immediately. The White House had reportedly considered naming a virus czar to be the point person on the disease.
“Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said. “We’re ready to adapt, and we’re ready to do whatever we have to.”
“I think this is going to go a long way toward making the American people feel more comfortable.”
The president revealed that of the 15 Americans confirmed to have the virus, eight have “returned to their homes to stay in their homes until fully recovered, one is in the hospital, and five have fully recovered; and one is, uh, we think in pretty good shape and is in between hospital and going home.” Trump later said the person was “pretty sick and hopefully will recover.”
“I think this is going to go a long way toward making the American people feel more comfortable,” Kennedy said of Trump’s remarks. “There’s a fine line between fear and panic.”
Kennedy also addressed his scolding of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf during a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday after Wolf said he was unable to answer some of the questions Kennedy asked him about U.S. prevention efforts at that time.
“I was pretty tough yesterday on the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Kennedy admitted. “It was intentional. I tried to send a message that this wasn’t a model of transparency or accuracy and we needed to get things better put together in terms of talking to the American people.”
“They did,” he added, “and I’m very pleased.”
Kennedy further praised the president for striking the correct balance between avoiding widespread panic while properly laying out the United States’ strategy to combat the outbreak.
“This is serious, but it’s not the end of world order. We’re not all going to die.”
“I thought the president did a good job,” he said. “The president, he doesn’t talk to the American people like they’re morons like so many people in Washington do.”
“He answered the questions straight up when he didn’t know. He made the point, which hasn’t been made as well as it could so far, that this is serious, but it’s not the end of world order. We’re not all going to die,” Kennedy added.
During the news conference, the president excoriated both the Federal Reserve and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, calling her “incompetent” after she challenged his response to the virus and said he couldn’t be trusted. At one point, he made a plea to Democrats in Congress urging them to “work together.”
“It was the right message,” Kennedy said of Trump’s call for unity. “I heard Senator [Chuck] Schumer, D-N.Y., today and I heard Speaker Pelosi … it’s clear they’re trying to politicize this. They’re still driven by bipartisan rage.”
“I understand politics,” Kennedy added. “This is not a time for politics. This is a time to look the American people in the eye, tell them the truth. If we don’t know the answer, say we don’t know yet, but as soon as we get it, we’ll give you the answer. I think Pence and Azar are the two people that can do that well.”
Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.