During an exchange with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a reporter asked why she and President Trump continue to blame President Obama for leaving the Trump administration with an “empty” national stockpile for emergencies even after Trump has been in office for three years.
“You talked about all of this preparation that the Trump administration did but how come on January 2020 the stockpile was as low as it was on supplies like facemasks like N95s,” Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin asked McEnany.
“Yeah, it’s a really good question. Perhaps I should redirect your question to President Obama who left the stockpile empty,” McEnany responded, echoing Trump’s false claim that the stockpile was completely empty when he took office. “He left the cupboard bare as the president noted.”
Politifact has rated Trump’s claim that the Obama administration left him with a “stockpile with a cupboard that was bare” as mostly false.
While “N95 masks were depleted after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, and experts warned years ago that the supply should have been replenished,” Politifact notes that “Trump made a sweeping generalization and exaggerated when he described the stockpile as a bare cupboard. The former director of the stockpile, just a couple of months before COVID-19 cases appeared in the U.S., described it as an $8 billion enterprise, with extensive holdings of many needed items.”
ProPublica reported last month that “dire shortages of vital medical equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile that are now hampering the coronavirus response trace back to the budget wars of the Obama years, when congressional Republicans elected on the Tea Party wave forced the White House to accept sweeping cuts to federal spending. Among the victims of those partisan fights was the effort to keep adequate supplies of masks, ventilators, pharmaceuticals and other medical equipment on hand to respond to a public health crisis. Lawmakers in both parties raised the specter of shortchanging future disaster response even as they voted to approve the cuts.”
Asked why Trump didn't try to replenish PPE stockpiles before the coronavirus hit, McEnany nonsensically changes the topic to the military threats Trump supposedly faced when he took office — the implication being he was preoccupied from doing so pic.twitter.com/ok7OAkS5JA
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 15, 2020
Colvin pushed back on McEnany’s answer, asking what the president has done in the last three years to address the “empty” stockpile.
“We refilled that stockpile,” McEnany said. “We got the N-95 masks out — ventilators are another good example, not a single America died for lack of a ventilator — a hundred thousand ventilators in a hundred days, three-times what is produced in the average year.”
“We have delivered,” she continued. “We have cleaned up the mess that was very clearly left by President Obama and we got that out.”