Former Senator Jeff Flake: President Trump should acknowledge COVID-19 struggles for Americans

Posted at 9:44 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 08:32:30-04

It's the maskless moment that's getting a lot of attention -- moments after landing at the White House Monday evening, after a three-day stay at Walter Reed, President Donald Trump walked up the steps of the White House, removed his mask, and posed for photos.

But former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake says it's important to look beyond just that single moment.

ABC15's Nick Ciletti asked Senator Flake what his reaction was when he saw the news footage.

"Well, I don't know. He was outside. I won't criticize him for that, but there is much to be criticized about the President's handling of this virus," Flake said.

"Not well. Not well," Flake said, when asked how he thinks President Trump has handled the pandemic. "I don’t know how you can look at any of the metrics you can apply to this, whether it’s number of infections or deaths. We’re less than 5% of the world’s population and we have 20% of the world’s deaths. And it’s difficult. This is a decent-sized country with a federalized system; it was always going to be a little more difficult, but there has always been a dearth of leadership at the national level. Just as something as simple as wearing a mask. The President having mocked those who do. Ridiculed those who do. It’s just one example of what could have gone better. The fact that we still don’t have rapid testing and a better way to distribute testing. It really is a failure on federal government. There are a number of things that we could have done better."

But the Trump administration points to their partial ban on travel from China earlier this year, saying it saved lives. And the administration rolled out a program recently to deliver millions of rapid tests to schools and long-term care facilities nationwide, including here in Arizona.

But is it too late? And as the President now recovers in the White House, what has this experience taught him?

"I am so grateful that the President has been able to overcome this so far, it looks like, and so quickly," says Flake. "But that has not been the experience of many Americans and many Arizonans. And he would do well to recognize that. And I think it would be good for policy in the future in regards to this pandemic and it would be good for him politically as well. And he simply hasn't. And that's difficult for him."

Watch more from ABC15's interview with Flake here:

Former Senator Flake endorses Joe Biden