A member of former President Donald Trump’s administration discussed issues regarding the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic Friday.
The Washington Examiner and The Graduate School of Political Management kicked off their new virtual series “The New Influentials of the GOP: Gen Y & Gen Z,” which discusses the direction the Republican Party is heading. Kerry Picket, a political reporter for the Examiner, interviewed former White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah in the first installment of the series.
Farah said one of the toughest challenges the Trump administration faced was balancing a “federalist approach with public health needs” because the party traditionally takes a hands-off approach with state regulation. She said the administration aimed to provide health recommendations but let states ultimately dictate their own responses.
She said she blames the media in part for contributing to what she deemed a false narrative of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s success fighting the pandemic. Farah said because the mainstream media tends to be public-facing, Cuomo received high praise for his response publicly but “actually had technically the worst response in the country.”
“We were sending him anything he asked for and still we were losing an unprecedented amount of New Yorkers,” Farah said.
Cuomo was widely commended early on in the pandemic for encouraging strictly following safety protocols but has recently come under fire for underreporting the number of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities.
She attributes Cuomo’s “rave reviews” to his daily, to-the-point, factual briefings in which he would update his constituents. She said she parallels this approach to Trump’s poor public communication about the pandemic during his press briefings.
“I’m not going to pretend that our press briefings were always on point or were helping get the most adequate public health information out there,” she said. “If I could have changed anything, I would have had those briefings housed at [the Department of Health and Human Services]. It would have been led by doctors.”
Farah said bringing the briefings into the White House politicized the updates, which she said was not what the country needed.
She said she applauds the Trump administration’s response for listening to career professionals like Deborah Burke, Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, calling them heroes.
Trump repeatedly criticized Fauci and other top health experts, claiming “people are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”
Farah added that she is proud of former Vice President Mike Pence’s coordination and collaboration with governors and counties to give them “the advice, information and most importantly the resources they needed.”
She said she wanted to point out the economic successes of the administration, appreciating its adherence to the traditional Republican message of freedom, prosperity and upward mobility, which she said is “the strongest point Republicans can come from.”
“We’re the party of small business,” she said. “We’re the party of American enterprise. We’re the party of small government and allowing business to thrive, and something that we were able to do successfully under the Trump administration was create the most inclusive economy in modern history.”