Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber

April 17, 2020
Press Release

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Ari Melber on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber for an interview discussing the latest in the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Ari Melber.  Having heard from the leader of the Executive branch, we turn to the leader of the Congressional branch.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins me live.  Good evening, thanks for joining me. 

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  I wish it were other circumstances, but here we are. 

Ari Melber.  Here we are.  I understand that.  Let's go right to the heart of this issue that affects so many Americans.  Walk us through what you're trying to do, what you see as a solution in this small business program that you passed that has apparently run into some shortages. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first of all, let me say that the lives and the livelihood of the American people are, of course, of the highest priority.  But you can't have one without the other.  We have to move in a science-based, evidence-based way.  Testing, testing, testing. 

But getting back to your question, I will say this – the bill that we passed, the CARES legislation, is something that was bipartisan.  We passed three bills in the month of March, all of them bipartisan, because we all want to address and help the lives and the livelihood of the American people. 

However, with the CARES Act, it was important for us to assert ourselves, and I was very proud that we, working together, House and Senate Democrats, were able to flip a corporate trickle-down bill to a workers and families first bill, bubble-up. 

Now in the implementation, there's need for more money.  We subscribe to that.  We want to have more money for small business.  We believe in that.  The entrepreneurial spirit of America is so important, but it is also important for us to have more funds for those on the front lines, the health care wokers, the police and fire, EMS folks and all those who really need help as they try to save lives. 

So, we're hoping that we can come to agreement.  Again, we all want the initiative to succeed.  So, hopefully, we can come to a bipartisan agreement very soon.

Ari Melber.  Understood.  There's been a lot of debate over keeping the country closed for the most part according to medical expertise.  The President though – I want to show some of the protests we've seen around the country.  You're familiar.  Some of our viewers have seen this.  Some of it quite heated when we look at the photography here and some of the videos of folks protesting in Michigan, gathering together.  In some of this footage people will see the protesters themselves not following the distancing guidelines.  Then the President making headlines tonight, Madam Speaker, New York Times reporting, ‘Trump Foments Anti-Restriction Protests, Alarming Governors.’  He was targeting, specifically, governors in Democratic states.  Our viewers are seeing, again, some of that.  What is your response to what the President is doing there?

Speaker Pelosi.  I won't take the bait.  This is another example of the distraction that they want to make from the fact that the President has said that this pandemic was a hoax, and that's not true.  That the President said it will magically disappear, that's not true.

Again and again, he was in denial and delay in dealing with this.  This is just a distraction.  Don't fall for that.  Don't take the bait. 

Ari Melber.  Understood.  Looking at the economic hardship, which of course is part of the bill you mentioned that you're working on, Washington Post reporting 22 million unemployed.  This has wiped out a decade of job gains.  President Trump has, of course, declared a national emergency.  And it notes, ‘A staggering loss of jobs,’ that’s wiped this out.  The U.S. has not seen this level of job loss, the Post reports,  ‘since the Great Depression.’  Speaker, do you view this as simply a product of this tough pandemic or do you view this as a Trump recession?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it's probably a combination.  But let's, right now, talk about the pandemic, because that's a matter of life and death.  We're in the situation that we're in because early into this, the President refused to accept the facts.  On March 4th, we sent the bill – we passed a bill in the House about testing, testing, testing.  You must have testing, testing, testing.  That is the key to opening the door to letting us out to grow our economy.  It has to be science-based. 

Originally, the President said in opening it up, ‘I have full authority, total authority.’  The next day, he said – following that he said, ‘Oh, the governors – it's up to them to open up,’ and following that, he criticized the governors for the approach they were taking, which was to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control. 

So, let's just say, we need truth.  We have to insist on the truth as to what this is.  We must have testing.  We must have contact tracing, so that we can stop this. 

People know; the American people are wise.  They know that this is a threat to the health and well-being of their families.  Of course they want to get back to work and want to grow our economy. 

But the fact is, is that they take the health and well-being of their families first and foremost.  We can move forward.  We can find a cure.  We can find a vaccine.  We put money in that, in that first testing, testing, testing bill.  The second bill was masks, masks, masks – trying to facilitate the personal protective equipment that we don't really have as much as we needed when we needed it, because the President wouldn't do the Defense Production Act.

So, the situation we're in is largely of his making: calling it a hoax, saying it would magically disappear, not calling upon the Defense Production Act to protect the workers who are trying to save lives as they risk their own lives in doing so.  That's why, in this package, we want to protect those on the front line.  Whether it's in the hospitals or the PPE, the Personal Protective Equipment.  Whether it's our police and fire, some of the emergency services people are the first ones to come in contact with somebody who is in need of care. 

So, we have to have insistence on the truth.  The truth is that the bill that the Republicans put forth would not pass with unanimous consent in the House of Representatives.  It didn't in the Senate either.  So let's find our common ground. 

We all support it, CARES.  We want to support a CARES 2, where we can go to the next step.   But let's not leave people behind and ignore the truth, which is the door to opening the economy, which is what we want to do with this small business initiative.  That door is opened by testing, testing, testing, contact tracing, evidence and science.

Ari Melber.  You just laid out your view of his failures coming from the Trump White House on down.  Do you think those failures cost lives?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, I do.  I think delaying and denial were deadly.  I think they cost lives.  And so, you say, ‘Okay, that's what’s then. They didn't know.’  So the reason I'm speaking out and I sent a letter to my colleagues, which I'm overwhelmed by the response I’ve received nationally and from my colleagues, about insisting on the truth is let's not continue on a path of misrepresentation and falsehoods. 

Let's get right to the science, the evidence, the data and facts.  And that's what we have in our proposal on hospitals, is hopefully to have testing with the data collection on how racial differences are revealed in getting the facts and the data.  That's so important.  And contact tracing, so that we can, once we know who might be infected, what contacts he or she may have had with other people and their own families and the rest. 

Ari Melber.  We cut away from the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in order to hear from you.  Now, we've heard from, as I mentioned, the President’s side and your side, leading the House.  When you look at the daily briefings at this point, do you recommend that public officials watch them to get information or do you think it's better to avoid watching them? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, people can do whatever they wish.  I think that it would be important for the President to tell the truth and that the American people insist on the truth, their lives and livelihoods depend on it.  

I don't really watch them because every day, the President is contradicting himself, either within the same presentation or from the day before.  ‘I'm fully in charge, I have authority.’  ‘Oh, it's up to the governors.’  ‘Oh, they’re following the guidelines.’  That's wrong.  And then, putting in these distractions. 

We need central command.  Central command recognizes the health challenge this is and the economic challenge that it is, and the relationship between the two.  And again, the testing from the start, the shelter at home, so important.  And the President being almost frivolous about that.  Some in the Republican party saying, ‘Well, people will die.  That’s the lesser of two evils.’  

I don't think we have to make that choice.  By the way, I don't think it's the lesser of two evils.  So, let us – you know, really, we don't want this to be partisan and I hesitated to go to that path.  As I said, three bills in March, bipartisan, all of them strongly bipartisan.  But as long as the President misrepresents the facts, to present falsehoods like ‘It's a hoax,’ ‘It’s magically going to disappear,’ and not insist that we have what we need to protect our workers.  

I'm an Intelligence person for a long time in Congress.  In intelligence and national security, one of the things that we – priorities that we have any time we’re at war, we have force protection, we want to protect our troops.  The President said, ‘We are at war against a pandemic.’  But force protection isn't there because we did not protect our people who are on the front line and we have to do better at that.  

Why should it be that a health care provider in a New York hospital who goes there, instead of being equipped with the gown, the mask, the gloves, the rest, is given a New York Yankees rain poncho as her protection?  And that people have to go from patient to patient with, actually, medical debris on their hands and on their faces?  Come on, let's do this right. 

Let's put whatever is behind us for an after-action review later, but we cannot allow the same falsehoods to be the basis for our decisions as we go forward.  We must insist upon the truth, the lives of the American people depend on it.  Their livelihoods do too.  That is our priority and small business is the vehicle to that. 

Ari Melber.  Understood.  Understood on that work that you’re doing.  Before I lose you, a final question on a different issue.  As you know, there was an accusation of misconduct against Joe Biden.  He has publicly denied it.  He is the Democratic nominee.  Are you satisfied with his answer?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, I am.  I am very much involved in this issue.  I always want to give the opportunity that women deserve to be heard.  I am satisfied with his answer, yes.

Ari Melber.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi making time for us here.  We're coming up against the end of our hour.  I really appreciate you joining me. 

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  Thank you.  I wish it – again, next time under better circumstances, I hope.

Ari Melber.  Absolutely, to you and to everyone.  And I wish your family well.