Political News

White House chief of staff defends briefing reporters without a mask despite Trump's coronavirus test

Posted October 2, 2020 12:46 p.m. EDT

— White House chief of staff Mark Meadows addressed reporters outside the White House Friday, hours after President Donald Trump's positive coronavirus diagnosis, blatantly disregarding guidelines on mask usage despite his close contact with the President this week.

Meadows defended not wearing a mask, saying it was because he received a negative test and was socially distanced from reporters, but in the same breath, acknowledged that Covid-19 is "contagious... regardless of whatever protocol we have."

His response is part of a continued pattern of White House staff showing little interest in changing their practices to meet the needs of the moment, actively eschewing mask usage, despite widely-accepted guidance from public health experts and the administration's own coronavirus task force.

"Yeah. So I've obviously been tested, we're hopefully more than six feet away. And if there's any concern there, from a guidance standpoint, we have protocols in place," Meadows said when pressed by CNN's Jim Acosta on why he was not wearing a mask.

The coronavirus incubation period is up to 14 days, with most people who get sick developing Covid-19 around five days after exposure. A negative test for Meadows this soon after exposure to the President doesn't necessarily mean he won't be impacted. There is still a possibility Meadows could be contagious despite negative test results.

Meadows went on to outline White House contingencies, including additional testing and social distancing.

But, he said, "Even with a lot of the mitigating factors, Jim, what you have is a virus that is contagious, that certainly continues to be, regardless of whatever protocol we have, that it has the ability to affect everybody, as you know, the President, we keep a pretty wide circle. All of you that have interacted with him know that. And so even with that wide circle around the President, we find that he's having to deal with this, like so many millions of other Americans and people around the world who've had it."

Meadows' appearance was swiftly lambasted by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who called the image of an unmasked chief of staff "disturbing."

"It was disturbing to see Mark Meadows doing that briefing, having been in close contact with the President, and not wearing a mask. He says he had tested negative, but often, those positive results don't show up for several days," Murphy said during an appearance on CNN moments after Meadows' briefing.

"So it just doesn't appear to me that the White House has gotten the message," Murphy added. "They seem to still be playing way too fast and loose with the CDC guidelines, and that's a really dangerous message."

Meadows also confirmed Friday that the President was experiencing "mild symptoms" but was "in good spirits." He declined to provide details on the President's treatment plan. He said "core White House staff," including Jared Kushner, Dan Scavino and himself, have tested negative.

Pressed by CNN's Joe Johns on the timing of when the White House learned top aide Hope Hicks had tested positive, Meadows conceded that some aides knew of her positive diagnosis before Marine One took off for New Jersey on Thursday afternoon for a fundraiser.

Some staffers, he said, were pulled from Marine One, raising further questions about why the trip proceeded, during which the Presidentcame into contact with numerous supporters at his Bedminster club. Multiple senior staffers told CNN's Kaitlan Collins they did not learn of Hicks' diagnosis until Thursday night, shortly before it was reported by Bloomberg News.

"I'm not going to get into the tick tock. I can tell you, in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as the Marine One was taking off yesterday. We actually pulled some of the people that have been traveling and in close contact. The reason why it was reported out, just frankly, is that we had already started to contact tracing just prior to that event," he said.

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