Donald Trump should resume regular coronavirus briefings amid a record-high surge in cases and as the public increasingly loses confidence in his ability to halt its rapid spread, said one top presidential aide, drawing a harsh rebuke from one Republican strategist.
"I just think the people want to hear from the president of the United States," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Friday.
The White House scrapped Mr Trump's almost-daily briefings after a number of them grew testy, including one that ended with him sparring with two female reporters. Mr Trump also uttered a laundry list of falsehoods and even used one evening briefing to urge Americans to inject themselves with disinfectant, bizarrely arguing household cleaners might kill the virus.
Mr Trump and members of his coronavirus task force would go on and on each evening for almost two hours, often offering conflicting messages and creating more headaches for themselves than doing much to quell public fears about the virus.
Ms Conway suggested if the briefings are revived, they would be less frequent and shorter – if the president, who sometimes relishes fighting with reporters, can give himself the hook, that is.
"Doesn't have to be daily. Doesn't have to be for two hours," she said. "But in my view it has to be."
Ms Conway, a veteran pollster and GOP strategist, contended there was no coincidence that the president's poll numbers on handling the virus outbreak were high when he was holding regular televised briefings.
To be sure, his poll numbers have plummeted in recent months. Not only does he trail former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls, but also in almost all of the key swing states that strategist from both parties agree will decide who wins in November.
Bringing back the daily sessions would be a major risk for the White House and Trump campaign.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Friday shows six in 10 Americans no longer trust what Mr Trump says about the pandemic. The same survey found two of every three independents no longer trust him on the topic, joined by three in 10 of Republicans.
Another poll out this week, conducted by Quinnipiac University, found 62 per cent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the virus. Just 35 per cent approve, it showed.
One Republican strategist on Friday said bringing back the regular Trump-led coronavirus briefings would be "the dumbest thing they could do."
"And it's one of the dumbest things she could have said," said the strategist, Evan Siegfried. "It makes her look incompetent because she could have just walked down the hall with that advice."
"Those briefings turn into nothing more than grievance sessions for the president and him patting his administration on the back," Mr Siegfied said. "You've got new infection rates and death counts spiking again, and you're going to send the president out there to say, 'We're doing this amazing job?' Is she trying to lose this thing?"
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