Photo of Pence praying with coronavirus task force draws criticism: 'We are so screwed'
President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, now led by Vice President Mike Pence, is under heavy criticism. Experts and others are noting most of its members are not physicians, few if any are public health/public policy experts, almost all – possibly just one – are men, and almost all are white. Also, all work for the Trump administration, so there are no outside voices to offer criticism that may be needed.
Trump officially formed the task force on January 29 – almost two full months after the first case in China was reported December 1 – but it wasn’t until last week that the group made much news, or received much scrutiny.
The original members, just 12, were all men, with just two medical doctors.
The White House responded by quietly adding members to the team, like apparently the only woman, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the State Department’s global AIDS director who holds the rank of ambassador, The New York Times noted.
The lack of expertise (not to mention diversity) is a huge concern, as this photo, which has been making its way around social media since last week, shows:
As concerns grow MSNBC’s Steve Bennen asked, “What does it take to qualify for Trump’s coronavirus task force?” It was a rhetorical question, as there don’t seem to be any specific pre-requisites.
Except perhaps one?
Another photo from last week is all of a sudden getting attention. It shows Vice President Mike Pence and the members of the Coronavirus Task Force praying in the White House.
Thomas Chatterton Williams, who writes at The New York Times Magazine and Harpers, was disturbed:
Mike Pence and his coronavirus emergency team praying for a solution. We are so screwed. https://t.co/p020FBIK9J— Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧 (@Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧)1583103764.0
They’re treating this disease with the seriousness and urgency they bring to gun violence...— Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧 (@Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧)1583105823.0
Some religious right activists, like National Organization For Marriage co-founder, Professor Robert George, took issue with the criticism:
I don't know anything about Mr. Williams, but this photograph and his comment perfectly illustrate the profound div… https://t.co/V8fcrumOG1— Robert P. George (@Robert P. George)1583116660.0
But some other conservatives, like U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols, is also critical. Nichols explains that “a meeting in a U.S. government office to deal with a virus is not an opportunity for a public prayer photo-op.”
Or maybe there's another reaction that even people of faith who pray every day - I am one of them - might have to t… https://t.co/sMwqbvCiiM— Tom Nichols (@Tom Nichols)1583117031.0
Nichols adds, “if I were asked to assemble the team of the best I could find to handle a crisis, I would not assume all of them are people of faith, nor would I assume that the people of faith among us are of *my* faith.”
Of course, Trump ally Franklin Graham, is thrilled:
A touching & powerful photo of @VP @Mike_Pence & the President’s Coronavirus Taskforce praying when they met last w… https://t.co/73L3EuJEbv— Franklin Graham (@Franklin Graham)1583111143.0
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a fellow at the Center for American Progress’ Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative sums it up: