(CNN)Donald Trump in April 2009 said the Obama administration was handling the early days of the 2009-2010 H1N1 outbreak ”fine” and warned against overreacting to the new virus.
The comments from Trump, made on a Fox News appearance from April 24, 2009, are at odds with his recent criticisms of the Obama administration, which he has frequently attacked for its pandemic preparations and response to H1N1. In a March tweet, Trump said that “their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster.”
In 2009, then-businessman Trump said, “I think it’s fine. It’s the flu. It’s the flu,” noting that mankind has had epidemics and flus before.
“It’s going to be handled. It’s going to come. It’s going to be bad. And maybe it will be worse than the normal flu seasons. And it’s going to go away. I think it is being handled fine. I think the words are right.”
“But, you know, you’re letting people in from countries that have bigger doses of it, and everybody’s coming into the country, and the Mexicans aren’t stopped and nobody’s stopped,” before immediately noting, “I’m not saying they should be stopped.”
“It’s called the flu. Have you had the flu many times, Neil (Cavuto)? Probably. You know, we all have.”
The remarks are similar to ones he would make as president 11 years later about the coronavirus, in which he downplayed the virus by comparing its death toll to the flu. Weeks later, Trump pivoted to say that the coronavirus was “not the flu. It’s vicious.”
A CNN KFile review of transcripts of Trump’s media appearances on television and radio, at public events and in his Twitter feed found no other examples of Trump mentioning the H1N1 outbreak until this year. The President was a frequent critic of then-President Barack Obama throughout most of his tenure in office.
Amid the handling of his administration’s own public health crisis, Trump has tried to deflect blame by pointing to the Obama administration’s H1N1 flu response, particularly attacking former Vice President Joe Biden, his presumptive 2020 presidential election opponent.
In March of this year, Trump tweeted that “their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!”
Last month Trump tweeted, “Biden/Obama were a disaster in handling the H1N1 Swine Flu. Polling at the time showed disastrous approval numbers. 17,000 people died unnecessarily and through incompetence!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,469 people in the US died from the H1N1 flu in 2009 and 2010. A CNN poll from late 2009 showed that 57% of respondents approved of Obama’s handling of the swine flu, despite vaccine shortages at the time.
The first H1N1 flu death in the US occurred on the same day as Trump’s Fox News interview, though it’s unclear if that was announced before the interview took place.
In the 2009 Fox News interview, Trump also cautioned against overreacting to the virus and said that “vaccines can be very dangerous.”
In the interview, host Neil Cavuto referenced the government’s mishandling of the 1976 swine flu outbreak, which led to unnecessary vaccinations that killed at least 25 people and caused 500 people to suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, which damages nerves and can lead to paralysis, before the vaccinations were suspended.
“We pushed vaccines on people that killed a lot of people, paralyzed a lot of people. Do we risk doing the same now?” asked Cavuto.
“I think you do. And I think the vaccines can be very dangerous. And obviously, you know, a lot of people are talking about vaccines for children with respect to autism. And every report comes out like, you know, that doesn’t happen. But a lot of people feel that the vaccines are what causes autism in children,” Trump said. There is no evidence that vaccines cause or are linked to autism, according to the CDC.
He added, “This is the flu. And it’s a bad flu season perhaps, although it hasn’t even started yet. But it’s a bad flu season, perhaps. And maybe it won’t be. But I do think we shouldn’t be over-reacting.”
Cavuto then asked Trump, “So if one of your kids should say, I’m feeling a little sick, I need to take a day off from school, you’re not going to let them?”
Trump responded, “Well, I’d let them, absolutely. If they’re not feeling well, I would certainly let them. But I don’t think I’d inject them with all sorts of vaccines that really nobody right now knows if it works with respect to what they’re, what they’re looking at right now, Neil.”
In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said, “President Trump’s highest priority has been the health and safety of the American people, which is why he has encouraged the use of vaccines and told parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated. Any new vaccine must be thoroughly tested to ensure it is effective, and that is why Operation Warp Speed is being led by expert scientists focused on safety and saving lives.”
On Friday, Trump predicted that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be developed by the end of the year, but experts warn that is unlikely.