In an appearance on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, Jared Kushner deemed the White House response to the coronavirus a “great success story.” The statement has garnered swift and widespread criticism.
Kushner, who has no prior experience in public health, was tapped by the administration to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to the coronavirus. He has made a handful of appearances at White House coronavirus briefings and on news stations.
“The federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story,” said Kushner. “I think that that’s really, you know, what needs to be told.”
Kushner’s statements prompted online allegations of magical thinking and even comparison to former President George W. Bush’s infamous compliment, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” The compliment was directed at then-FEMA Director Michael Brown for his handling of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times reported, “Mr. Brown had become a political liability to the White House.” Brown resigned ten days later.
On Tuesday, the number of coronavirus-related deaths reached 58,368, more than the death toll of the Vietnam War, according to the Daily Beast.
Here’s what you need to know:
Kushner Received Similar Backlash in Early April For Statements Regarding the National Stockpile of Healthcare Supplies
This isn’t the first time Kushner has landed in hot water for statements about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus. In early April, at a White House coronavirus press briefing, Kushner argued that the national stockpile of healthcare supplies was not intended for state use. “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use,” said Kushner. “So, we’re encouraging the states to make sure that they’re assessing the needs, they’re getting the data from their local situations and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we’ve given them.”
This statement garnered quick backlash from mayors and governors around the country. The following day, the Department of Health and Human Services altered a brief summary of the federal stockpile to better reflect Kushner’s statement, according to Politico.
When asked for clarification on Kushner’s statements, Trump defended his son-in-law in a heated exchange with a reporter, insisting, “‘Our’ — you know, what ‘our’ means? United States of America. That’s what it means. It means —Our. Our. It means the United States of America. And then we take that ‘our’ and we distribute it to the states.”
Kushner’s Role in the White House is Expansive
As a senior advisor to the president, Kushner’s role in the administration has been vast. The real estate investor is in charge of “the Middle East Peace Process and managing U.S. relations with our Arab allies,” according to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. “Mr. Kushner also heads the White House Office of Innovation, which has been tasked with providing the Administration with recommendations on how to efficiently reorganize the U.S. government given Trump’s proposed budget cuts.”
“Nobody has more influence in the White House than Jared. Nobody has more influence outside the White House than Jared,” says Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, in an interview with TIME. “He’s No. 2 after Trump.”