Without offering evidence, President Trump doubled down Monday on his baseless suggestion that New York City healthcare workers may be stealing or hoarding face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump returned to the premise that something nefarious is taking place at city hospitals after a reporter asked him to substantiate his Sunday claim that masks may be “going out the backdoor.”
“I expressed what was told to me by a tremendous power in the business,” Trump said without identifying the alleged individual.
“He said that at a New York hospital, for a long period of time, he was given 10,000, maybe maximum 20,000 masks over a short time,” the conspiratorially-minded president continued, “and all of sudden, he’s giving 300,000. And I said, ‘No matter how bad this is, can that be possible?’ And he said, ‘No.’ So there’s only a couple of things that could happen: Is it going out the backdoor? … There’s something going on.”
Trump said he had “reported” his unfounded assertions to city officials so they can “take a look at it.”
The president did not say which city agency he had contacted, and a White House spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and New York’s largest nurses union excoriated Trump’s claim as “outrageous” on Monday and said healthcare workers are using more masks because there’s a pandemic unfolding that has already claimed more than 1,200 lives in New York.
In the city alone, at least 790 people had died as of 10:30 a.m. Monday, with more than 36,000 confirmed cases.
Despite the worsening pandemic, Trump appeared mostly interested in settling scores with reporters during his Rose Garden briefing.
He repeatedly took aim at reporters for asking what he claimed were “nasty” questions.
The president erupted when one reporter asked what his message would be to Americans who are upset with him for downplaying the severity of the virus for weeks before recently changing his tone.
“I could cause panic much better than even you. I would make you look like a minor league player, but I don’t want to do that,” Trump fumed.
On a less combative note, the president reported that more than 1 million people in the U.S. have now been tested for COVID-19 and professed that his administration is “doing an awfully good job.” He also showed off what he called an “incredible” testing kit from a company called Abbott Laboratories.