Fox News host Chris Wallace surprised many on Sunday when grilled Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders about why former Vice President Joe Biden has not held a press conference in almost three months.
“You talk about him being on the campaign trail but I think most people have been struck that he has been — he stayed in his Delaware home mostly and then in large parts since March, he’s held a few socially distanced events,” Wallace said. “And perhaps more important, he has not held a news conference either in person or online for 80 days, almost three months. Why not?”
“Well, Chris, to be clear, Vice President Biden … does interviews, takes questions from the press regularly,” Sanders replied. “And yes, in March, we were — we have adjusted to this new normal like most people in America. We have been campaigning virtually, but just because we are campaigning virtually does not mean we are not meeting actual voters across the country.”
“But why hasn’t he held a news conference for 80 days?” Wallace asked.
“Chris, as … many of y’all in the national press and the beltway press are well aware, we take pride in prioritizing local media,” Sanders said. “And so, the vice president is doing local media interviews. He’s doing national media interviews and he is taking questions from reporters.”
Wallace then shot back, “President Trump says that one of the reasons that Biden is holed up in his basement is because he’s not up to campaigning.”
Read the full transcript below:
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Joe Biden has largely stayed off the campaign trail since the outbreak of the coronavirus. But instead of the former vice president’s low-profile hurting him, he is seeing a growing lead over President Trump in the polls.
Joining us now, Symone Sanders, senior advisor for the Biden campaign.
Symone, what do you make of the relatively small crowd at the president’s rally last night and the fact that so many of the thousands who were there were not wearing masks?
SYMONE SANDERS, BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, thank you for having me this morning, Chris, and happy Father’s Day.
Look, Donald Trump’s debacle of a rally last night will long be remembered, lest we not forget, the president’s campaign required that folks who were attending his rally sign a waiver so that if I were to get sick the coronavirus, that the campaign would not be held liable.
But I think the most damning thing from that rally last night, Chris, was, in fact, the president’s admission that he, quote/unquote, said to his people to slow down the testing. This is an appalling attempt to lessen the numbers only to make him look good. And so, I think that’s what will be remembered long after last night’s debacle of a rally. The admission of the president that he slowed testing for his political benefit and it’s not for the American people.
WALLACE: Well, let me just point out, they say that it was a joke and it didn’t seem particular — well, let me just point out, that’s what they said.
I want to pick up though on this whole question of the public health of these mass gatherings, Symone, because when there were tens of thousands of people marching in the streets and, quite rightly, in protest for the death of George Floyd and the issues of police brutality, there were so many of them — not maybe most, but many of them were not wearing masks. At that time the president called — the vice president, Joe Biden, called those rallies right and necessary, with no mention of public health.
I guess the question is, why the double standard where the protests were okay, but this rally was dangerous?
SANDERS: Chris, there is no double standard here. Protesting is an American right. The American people have the right to go out and raise their voices.
The difference here is, Chris, we are talking about the president of the United States whose vice president, by the way, heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, holding a rally, not following their own precautions that his own public health officials have put out.
Look, the president has to lead, Chris, and President Trump has demonstrated in so many times, in every sense of the word, that he is unable to do so. And so, the difference between folks going out and protesting police brutality and the president planning a rally where six of his own advanced staffers before the rally contracted COVID-19 is as clear as day.
And again, Chris, this is about public health. No one is saying, you know, we want the economy to reopen, we want folks to get back to work, more than 20 million Americans are still out of work. Almost 120,000 people have died due to COVID-19.
Those jobless, those deaths did not have to happen. We’d have to take precautions, Chris. We have to do what is necessary in order to protect the American people, and months ago, the president —
WALLACE: By why didn’t — I guess what I’m asking though — if I may, Symone, I just am asking this one question, why did the vice president — because whether it was indoors or outdoors, whatever the reason for the gathering, there were thousands of people in the streets in these protests. Why didn’t Vice President Biden say, look, I understand the concern, but these may be potential super-spreaders?
SANDERS: Chris, I just listen to your last segment where the doctor noted that there has — there is no evidence that the protests are what have spiked coronavirus cases across the country. So I’m not sure what you’re asking or what you’re suggesting.
Look, Vice President Biden has really exhibited leadership on this issue. You know, we have been out campaigning. I also heard you say we haven’t really been on the campaign trail. We’ve been on the campaign trail since March. We’ve been campaigning virtually.
But you have seen Vice President Biden go back out into the actual campaign trail and our events are safe. They are socially distant. They adhere with the CDC guidelines.
Vice President Biden wears a mask. People participating wearing masks because this is about being safe, Chris. This about ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
And what President Trump has demonstrated yesterday is that he actually is not concerned with the public health, he is concerned with his ability to hold a rally. And I’d just like to note, the folks who are out there —
WALLACE: OK, let me —
SANDERS: — they should be able to go get a coronavirus test.
WALLACE: Symone, you got to let — Symone, you got to let me in here.
SANDERS: But the folks out there, well, you made (ph) this point, Chris —
WALLACE: Symone, you got to let —
SANDERS: — the folks out there protesting, they should be able to get a coronavirus test. Unfortunately, because the president slowed testing, they are unable to do so.
WALLACE: I don’t want to get into a fight but you got to let — you got to let me ask the question. Symone — all right, so here’s a question I’m going to ask you. Joe (VIDEO GAP) you talk about him being on the campaign trail but I think most people have been struck that he has been — he stayed in his Delaware home mostly and then in large parts since March, he’s held a few socially distanced events.
But he — by the large part, he has not found the campaign trail and he could have felt certainly more socially distanced events. And perhaps more important, he has not held a news conference either in person or online for 80 days, almost three months.
SANDERS: Well, Chris, to be clear, Vice President Biden takes — does interviews, takes questions from the press regularly. And yes, in March, we were — we have adjusted to this new normal like most people in America. We have been campaigning virtually, but just because we are campaigning virtually does not mean we are not meeting actual voters across the country.
Vice President Biden has campaigned in Michigan and Florida. Dr. Biden has campaigned in Colorado and Texas.
So, the reality is, what we have been doing is following CDC guidelines, Chris. What we have been doing is insuring —
WALLACE: But why hasn’t he held a news conference for 80 — but why hasn’t he held a news conference for 80 days?
SANDERS: Chris, as many of you — many of y’all in the national press and the beltway press are well aware, we take pride in prioritizing local media. And so, the vice president is doing local media interviews. He’s doing national media interviews and he is taking questions from reporters.
WALLACE: President Trump says that one of the reasons that Biden is holed up in his basement is because he’s not up to campaigning. Here was the president on that this week.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He’s not running his campaign. People are running his campaign. I see quotes all the time that he said this, he said that about me, and they’re long, beautiful, flowing sentences. I said, Joe didn’t make that statement and Joe doesn’t even know the statement was made.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: Does the former vice president contribute to the president being able to make that argument by being out of public view so often?
SANDERS: This is just despicable, Chris, honestly. It truly is. The fact that folks are parroting this — you know, just unfounded, salacious lie from the president and his campaign that Vice President Biden isn’t up to the challenge. He’s absolutely up to it. Who — he’s absolutely up to it.
Vice President Biden would tell you if he were sitting right here that he can’t wait to see Donald Trump on the debate stage and he can’t wait to campaign with him.
I just find it interesting that folks continue to parrot these lines from the Trump campaign when it’s (ph) Donald Trump who stood at the White House press program and suggested Americans should ingest bleach to clear themselves out — of the coronavirus.
WALLACE: We reported on that, too, as you — as you know, Symone.
I want to put up some new FOX polls, which I think you’re — you’re going to like. The latest FOX poll shows that Biden is leading President Trump 50 percent to 38, but when asked why they backed their candidate, 31 percent of Biden supporters say it’s because of enthusiasm for him and 63 percent because they fear Mr. Trump. For the president, it’s almost exactly the reverse.
Symone, you know, a lead is a lead. But is the lack of enthusiasm for Biden, even among Biden supporters, what you might call an enthusiasm gap, is that a potential problem?
SANDERS: No, Chris, it’s not. Look, we heard this a lot throughout the primary about an enthusiasm gap, who could and who could not turn out voters. And what we saw in the primaries is that Vice President Biden in contest after contest handily won but also turned out voters, turned out — was up in Virginia in the Democratic primary, it was up in North Carolina.
In the Georgia primaries that just happened, more than 1.1 —
SANDERS: — million voters voted early.
And so, we are very confident in our strategy, Chris. We think our voters are excited.
But I also think these numbers spell trouble for President Trump, that this is a referendum, this election will be a referendum on his presidency, on his lack of leadership and how his actions have directly affected the American people.
WALLACE: Symone, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you. Thanks for joining us. Please come back.
SANDERS: Thank you.