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Joe Biden Delivers Speech Criticizing Trump Administration On Coronavirus Response

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The leading Democratic presidential candidates slammed the Trump administration today for its response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

JOE BIDEN: This virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration. Public fears are being compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this president.

BERNIE SANDERS: Unfortunately, in this time of international crisis, it is clear to me, at least, that we have an administration that is largely incompetent and whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in our country.

CHANG: That, of course, was former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Both of them delivered remarks today on the virus.

And NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid joins us now. Hey, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right, let's start with Joe Biden. You were there for his remarks in Delaware this afternoon. Tell us more about what he said.

KHALID: Well, he was very critical of the Trump administration. He essentially called the administration's failure of testing a colossal failure. He talked about the need to have more of a global coordinated response rather than playing into xenophobic fears and travel bans. He outlined a sort of very large, detailed, specific policy plan that calls for widespread free testing and specifically says that there should be mobile testing sites - about at least, I think, 10 per state. And he outlined that Trump was welcome to adopt his policies, but again, he was very, very critical of what the president has done to date.

You know, he said that no president can really promise to prevent future outbreaks, but if he were president, he promises that he would be better prepared, and he would help the country recover better foremost by leading with science. And as you know, the Trump administration has been widely criticized by Democrats for their failure to sort of believe all of...

CHANG: Right.

KHALID: ...Scientific evidence.

CHANG: OK, and I understand that Sanders spoke about 90 minutes later. Tell us more about what he said.

KHALID: Well, he called on President Trump to declare the situation a national emergency. He talked a lot about solidarity and reiterated a lot of his social safety packages such as - you know, he's advocated for "Medicare for All," paid sick leave. These are policies he has long promoted, but he stressed the urgency of having them in place now for the country to be able to deal with the coronavirus. He again also talked about leaning on scientists and for Congress to take a much more active hand. He criticized the administration's response, you know, as we heard earlier, as incompetent and reckless.

CHANG: What about the pretty serious economic fallout that's been happening because of this virus? Did either Biden or Sanders address that?

KHALID: They did. They both spoke about the coronavirus not only as a public health emergency but, really, as an economic emergency at this point. They both have called for expanding unemployment benefits. They both have called for guaranteed paid sick time for workers. And these are issues - you know, they feel like the economic consequences are important. But Joe Biden also stressed that, really, in order to protect the economy, the country - you know, the leadership of this country has a responsibility to protect the health of the American public as well.

CHANG: And I imagine the White House might have been listening in. I mean, has the Trump administration been responding to any of these criticisms?

KHALID: Certainly. The Trump campaign very quickly put out statements critical both of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden's statements today. They have strongly defended what the Trump administration has done and said that essentially, both of these two Democratic candidates are trying to score political points and stoke fears.

CHANG: That is NPR's Asma Khalid. Thank you so much, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF TO ROCOCO ROT'S "TELEMA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.