With the Dow Jones industrial average suffering its worst two-day loss in history on fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Democratic presidential contenders on Tuesday night tried to turn the tables on President Trump in an area long perceived as one of his strengths: the economy.
They characterized the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak as chaotic and misinformed during a Democratic primary debate in South Carolina.
Michael R. Bloomberg
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, accused Mr. Trump of undermining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he said was no longer equipped to respond to the deepening global health crisis.
“What’s really happening here is the president fired the pandemic specialists in this country two years ago so there’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “He’s defunded Centers for Disease Control, C.D.C., so we don’t have the organization we need. As you see, the stock market is falling apart because people are really worried and they should be.”
“In the White House today, we have a self-described ‘great genius,’ — self-described,” Mr. Sanders said. “And this great genius has told us that this coronavirus is going to end in two months. April is the magical date that this great scientist we have in the White House has determined.”
The Dow lost nearly 900 points on Tuesday, one day after plunging more than 1,000 points on Monday.
The criticism by the Democratic presidential contenders came on the same day that Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, suggested that the market skid was a buying opportunity for investors.
Mr. Trump bristled at the criticism in a series of tweets during the debate and said that the C.D.C. and his administration had done a “great job” of handling the coronavirus, including the early closing of U.S. borders to visitors from certain parts of the world.
“If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job,” Mr. Trump said. “Not fair, but it is what it is. So far, by the way, we have not had one death.”
“The economic threat is also growing — the 1800-point drop in the Dow this week is the tip of the iceberg,” Ms. Warren said on Twitter.
Ms. Warren pointed out that she introduced a plan weeks ago to stop pandemics and said the United States needed to treat the coronavirus “as the serious health, diplomatic and economic threat that it is.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Our president today, he’s wiped all that out,” he said.
Mr. Biden said he was the only candidate on the debate stage who had dealt with international leaders to get a grip on the public health emergency.
“And here’s the deal, I would be on the phone with China and making it clear: We are going to need to be in your country, you have to be open, you have to be clear, we have to know what’s going on, we have to be there with you, and insist on it, and insist, insist, insist,” Mr. Biden said.
“I would better coordinate throughout my presidency to be ready for the next pandemic and to prepare for this one,” she said.
Mariel Wamsley contributed reporting.