The New York Times said Tuesday that its health and science reporter went “too far” after criticizing both Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump as well as calling for the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resign for bungling the U.S. response to COVID-19.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Donald McNeil laid most of the blame on what he called “incompetent leadership” at the CDC and called for its director Robert Redfield’s resignation.
“We had a test on March 5 and it didn’t work, we didn’t have 10,000 people tested until March 15. So we lost two months there. And that was because of incompetent leadership at the CDC,” McNeil said. “I’m sorry to say, it’s a great agency but it’s incompetently led and I think Dr. Redfield should resign.”
“We were in a headless-chicken phase, and yes, it’s the president’s fault, it is not China’s fault,” McNeil said. “You know, the head of the Chinese CDC was on the phone to Robert Redfield on Jan. 1, again on Jan. 8, and the two agencies were talking on Jan. 19. The Chinese had a test on Jan. 13; the Germans had a test on Jan. 16. We fiddled around for two months, we had a test on March 5 and it didn’t work. We didn’t have 10,000 people tested until March 15.”
Donald G. McNeil Jr: The CDC “is a great agency but it’s incompetently led, and I think Dr Redfield should resign.” pic.twitter.com/7tUPDGsE86
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) May 12, 2020
The criticism didn’t end with Redfield and the CDC as McNeil went on to rip Trump, accusing him of a cover-up.
“And suppression from the top- I mean, the real coverup was the person in this country who was saying, you know, ‘This is not an important virus, the flu is worse, it’s all going to go away, it’s nothing,'” McNeil Jr. said. “And that encouraged everybody around him to say, ‘It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.'”
McNeil then called the decision to let Pence take charge of the response a “mistake,” while calling him a “sycophant.”
“Getting rid of Alex Azar was a mistake- he was actually leading a dramatic response,” McNeil said about the HHS secretary who was first tapped to lead the response, “And then, in February he was replaced with Mike Pence, who’s a sycophant.”
In a statement to The Hill, a Times spokesperson said that McNeil “went too far in expressing his personal views” during the interview.
“His editors have discussed the issue with him to reiterate that his job is to report the facts and not to offer his own opinions,” the spokesperson added. “We are confident that his reporting on science and medicine for The Times has been scrupulously fair and accurate.”
The Times’ guidelines state that “Generally a staff member should not say anything on radio, television or the Internet that could not appear under his or her byline in The Times on its reporters expressing personal views.”