Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland on Thursday night said he has always been a straight-shooter with President Donald Trump over the federal coronavirus response after the White House chided him for “revisionist history.”
Hogan had earlier slammed Trump’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic as “hopeless” in an article published Thursday in The Washington Post, elaborating on his efforts to secure testing kits and prevent the deaths of residents in his state. His account, excerpted from his forthcoming book, subsequently drew criticism from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
“I have, from the very beginning of this, been very upfront and straightforward,” Hogan told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday night when asked about McEnany’s response. “When I think progress has been made, I give them credit.”
Hogan pointed to his repeated praise for the federal government’s outreach and communication with the nation’s governors, Vice President Mike Pence and the federal coronavirus task force.
Citing calls between governors and the White House that he has lead as chairman of the National Governors Association, Hogan told Burnett, “I’ve pushed back and said, ‘No, they have gotten this done.’ We worked with them to get the ventilators produced and utilize the Defense Production Act.”
“When we have the call with all the governors, I thank them, because they were finally getting up to speed on swabs and on getting some supplies, on PPE out to the states,” Hogan said. “But that was not to say that we had test kits available for all the people in the states.”
“And so you can take a piece of a conversation, this is a 300-some-page book that they took an excerpt out of,” he continued. “I can tell you, I’ve always been right upfront – when the President and his team are doing something right, I praise them, and when they’re doing something wrong, I’m not afraid to say so.”
Hogan’s strong criticism of the President’s response came as the number of coronavirus cases accelerates across the US and as states take preventive measures into their own hands on how to slow spread. Hogan has called for more help for the states and has openly pushed back on Trump about the pandemic, including the President’s claims about the availability of coronavirus testing.
In the Washington Post article, Hogan said he watched as Trump “downplayed the outbreak’s severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals.” He also detailed his efforts to secure 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea with the help of his wife, Yumi Hogan, who was born there, and how the National Guard was brought in to protect the tests.
“Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death,” Hogan said.
McEnany called Hogan’s article “revisionist history” during a press briefing on Thursday, pointing to the governor’s previous comments where he thanked the President for his cooperation with governors.
“It’s really striking, his comments, especially when you compare them to his past comments,” McEnany said. “This is revisionist history by Gov. Hogan and it stands in stark contrast to what he said on March 19 where he praised the great communication that the President has had with governors.”
As the coronavirus began to spread to the US, Hogan also said Trump “was talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection plans” instead of listening to health experts.
Hogan said while he awaited Trump’s approval for joint coronavirus testing at the National Institutes of Health, he called NIH Director Francis Collins to make a request for testing at the agency but instead Collins asked him for help with testing.
“‘I don’t even have enough tests for my immune-compromised patients or for my staff,’ he said. He wondered if I might prevail upon Johns Hopkins, whose Suburban Hospital is across the street from NIH, to do some testing for him,” Hogan said. “I could only shake my head at that. The federal government – a much bigger and better-funded institution, with tens of thousands of scientists and physicians in the civil service – wanted my help!”
Asked about Hogan’s remarks, the NIH told CNN on Thursday, “We can confirm that Dr. Collins spoke to Governor Hogan on March 28 about possible collaborations with other Maryland institutions, in order to establish additional testing support for the NIH Clinical Center.”
As the virus spread, Hogan and other governors scrambled for personal protective equipment and testing kits, pleading for federal assistance, while the promised testing kits from the Trump administration were delayed for weeks. In April, Trump blamed governors over testing shortfalls and has said he doesn’t take “any responsibility at all” for the slow roll out of tests. Trump also inaccurately claimed that the US had done more testing than any other nation, including South Korea.
This story has been updated.