White House senior adviser Jared Kushner coldly informed a group of business leaders earlier this year that the state of New York would “suffer” with COVID-19, adding: “That’s their problem,” sources told Vanity Fair.
The shocking comment was one of several in the article exposing Kushner’s dismissive, compassion-challenged attitude about the rapacious pandemic that as of Saturday has claimed close to 200,000 lives in the U.S., including more than 33,000 in New York.
He made the comments at a meeting with business leaders he hosted at the White House ― some were online ― on March 21, according to Vanity Fair, when President Donald Trump already knew how lethal COVID-19 was.
A number of people attending the meeting told the magazine that they were “stunned” by Kushner’s chilly attitude about the suffering and death facing Americans.
When one business representative brought up the devastating problems states were having obtaining adequate personal protective equipment — including face masks, gloves and gowns for medical workers — Kushner reportedly responded: “Free markets will solve this. That is not the role of government.”
As the COVID death toll continued to mount, states were left to fend for themselves with no federal management and little aid. Many states ended Many ended up competing with one another for desperately needed supplies, driving up prices. In some cases, they competed with the federal government, which snatched supplies ordered by states — or instructed vendors not to do business with certain states — to channel them elsewhere.
According to the article, when the same business leader said he feared the market was failing to deliver medical supplies, he said Kushner responded: “That’s the CNN bullshit. They lie.”
Related: Jared Kushner through the years
Trump’s son-in-law then reportedly complained that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) “didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state ... His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”
Kushner added, “The federal government is not going to lead this response. It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do.”
Unlike the Trump administration, the business community was eager to take action and help the nation weather COVID-19, those attending the meeting told Kushner. They were prepared to pull out the stops and crank up production, even reconfiguring manufacturing to make different products. But Kushner was not interested, a source told Vanity Fair.
Kushner stunned the public the following month when he announced that the federal emergency stockpile of medial supplies wasn’t meant for the states — raising the question of who the supplies were intended to serve.
“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile,” Kushner said. “It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
JARED KUSHNER: "The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use." pic.twitter.com/9Q7j8QBCMv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 2, 2020
Kushner’s attitude has been perfectly in sync with Trump’s. The president has frequently signaled that states bear the major burden in dealing with the pandemic ― particularly the Democratic states — rather than the federal government. He announced in May he was winding down his coronavirus task force and has repeatedly insisted that COVID will simply vanish. But he has known nearly from the beginning how deadly serious the pandemic was, and decided to “downplay” it, Trump admitted in recently revealed taped conversations with journalist Bob Woodward.
In comments earlier this week Trump said that the COVID death toll would be lower ― and thus his administration’s response to the health crisis more impressive ― if “you take the blue states out.”
One of those attending the White House meeting said it seemed “very clear” Kushner was less interested in finding a solution because, at the time, the virus was primarily ravaging cities in blue states, according to the Vanity Fair article
“We were flabbergasted,” he said. “I basically had an out-of-body experience [wondering]: Where am I, and what happened to America?”
Five of the 10 states with the highest death tolls were carried by Trump in 2016.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Vanity Fair that its story was “another inaccurate and disgusting partisan hit job.”