MSNBC Hits Pence Over Prayer, Trump Appointed Him as 'Fall Guy'

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Saturday night, as MSNBC host Ali Velshi hosted his networks' live special coverage of the South Carolina Democratic Primary results, he held a discussion and worry fest over the Donald Trump administration's handling of the Coronavirus issue.

The liberal host not only mocked Vice President Mike Pence's religious belief in prayer -- which he referred to as "pray the gay away" -- as Velshi blamed him for more HIV infections in Indiana, but he also brought up President Trump's opposition to gun control as a reason not to trust him to deal with an epidemic.

MSNBC Republican contributors Susan del Vecchio and Dave Jolly also did their part as del Vecchio theorized that Trump appointed Pence to make him a "fall guy" on the Coronavirus issue, and Jolly accused the President of "jeopardizing American lives" by not taking it seriously enough.

At 11:34 p.m. Eastern, after playing a clip of Vice President Pence recalling his handling of the HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana, from 2015, host Velshi reacted:

VELSHI: He left out a whole bunch of information there. There was a spread of HIV, it was determined that it was being spread by needles -- which is the way it often spreads -- he was told that he needed to do needle exchange, it should have been done earlier.

Even though, according to the timeline, Pence decided to allow a needle exchange program shortly after he spoke of praying on the issue, Velshi made it sound like he did nothing for a substantial time after praying:

VELSHI: When asked why he won't do it, he said, "I'm going to pray on that," because he's very big in praying the gay away. And then they finally did it for 30 days, but there is a sense that there is an amount of infection that would not have been spread if Mike Pence had gotten on this thing faster.

As he set up del Percio, Velshi added:

VELSHI: In the year 2000, he wrote an op-ed in which he said cigarettes don't kill. Susan, I'm concerned -- I want the government to be in charge -- I want the concept that the Vice President of the United States is in charge of these most important of things -- but he's not really a big guy with the medicine and the science.

Del Vecchio agreed that Pence is not in tune with science, and then pushed her theory of Trump planning for Pence to be a "fall guy" on the issue.

A bit later, as Velshi suggested that Trump could not be trusted to handle an epidemic because of other policy issues like gun control in which he did not carry out the liberal agenda that Velshi and other journalists wanted:

VELSHI: We've got a President who took a sharpie to a map when dealing with a hurricane, you've got a President who says he's going to do things after gun massacres who doesn't do things about them, you've got a President who wouldn't deal with right-wing extremism in this country because he really wanted to believe it was something else, and we've not really been put to this test yet. I don't think Coronavirus is existential, but it's certainly serious. and we haven't been put to the test where I need to know my government's giving me the best information. We're not there yet with this government.

Jolly expected the worst from President Trump as he began his response:

DAVE JOLLY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Now, look, on a certain level, Donald Trump is going to jeopardize American lives and Americans' safety for his own political fortunes and his own personal ego.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Saturday, February 29, MSNBC live coverage of the South Carolina Democratic Primary:

ALI VELSHI: Here's my commentary on this. I don't want to call things lies that aren't lies. He left out a whole bunch of information there. There was a spread of HIV, it was determined that it was being spread by needles -- which is the way it often spreads -- he was told that he needed to do needle exchange, it should have been done earlier. When asked why he won't do it, he said, "I'm going to pray on that," because he's very big in praying the gay away. And then they finally did it for 30 days, but there is a sense that there is an amount of infection that would not have been spread if Mike Pence had gotten on this thing faster.

In the year 2000, he wrote an op-ed in which he said cigarettes don't kill. Susan, I'm concerned -- I want the government to be in charge -- I want the concept that the Vice President of the United States is in charge of these most important of things -- but he's not really a big guy with the medicine and the science.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Science not so much.

VELSHI: Yeah.

DEL PERCIO: What I immediately thought was, knowing Donald Trump, if he thought that his could be successfully handled in a very responsible way, he would take responsibility.

VELSHI: Right.

DEL PERCIO: But he knows it won't be. He knows this is a problem, so, hah, "There's Mike Pence -- he'll do anything I ask -- he just stands there and nods his head -- so why not give it to him? And if it goes all sideways, guess what, I have a perfect fall guy." Because the fact is that Mike Pence is in no position to oversee this. Besides not trusting the science, we can't trust him. He has yet to show any independence of this President.

(...) 

VELSHI: And when pressed by our reporter, Kelly O'Donnell, about the danger, David Jolly, of calling it a hoax, and that the President's followers or believers will believe it's a hoax, then not take the necessary advice that they need to take, the President said he was talking about something else and Democrats altogether, but a lot of the issue with a disease like this, an infection like this, is about trust in government, right? Some of it's medicine, some of it's science, some of it's epidemiology, but a lot of it's trust in your government.

We've got a President who took a sharpie to a map when dealing with a hurricane, you've got a President who says he's going to do things after gun massacres who doesn't do things about them, you've got a President who wouldn't deal with right-wing extremism in this country because he really wanted to believe it was something else, and we've not really been put to this test yet. I don't think Coronavirus is existential, but it's certainly serious. and we haven't been put to the test where I need to know my government's giving me the best information. We're not there yet with this government.

DAVE JOLLY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Now, look, on a certain level, Donald Trump is going to jeopardize American lives and Americans' safety for his own political fortunes and his own personal ego.

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