Consider this one of the dumber tropes to emerge from Democrats over the last few weeks of coronavirus theater, and — as Glenn Kessler demonstrates — one of the more easily refuted. The Democratic super-PAC supporting Joe Biden amplified an accusation bouncing around on social media of late, which is that Donald Trump so miscalculated the COVID-19 pandemic that he robbed the US of its personal protective equipment in order to assist China. That, they hint, is why America faces a PPE shortage now:
“Trump gave China more than praise. He shipped China 17 tons of American masks and medical supplies. Our masks and supplies. Supplies we need now.”
Feel free to follow the above links to the ad itself, but is it worth it? Did Trump send masks and other PPE to China just when we needed it the most? No, Kessler says in his fact check at the Washington Post. All Trump did was supply the transport for private donations of PPE on the front part of the effort to evacuate Americans from China:
The ad says that “Trump … shipped 17 tons of American masks and medical supplies. Our masks and supplies.” The impression left by the ad is that these were U.S. government goods, shipped on Trump’s order.
But these were actually donations by private charities and public companies for Project HOPE, an international health-care organization that has been operating in Wuhan for a quarter-century and helped establish a nursing school there. Usually, donors to Project HOPE arrange for charter aircraft to take their donations overseas.
For instance, as these shipments arrived in Wuhan, another shipment — 2 million respirator masks, 11,000 protective suits and 280,000 pairs of nitrile gloves donated by MAP International and MedShare — was sent to Project HOPE via UPS, which provided the transportation as an in-kind donation.
In the case highlighted in the ad, the State Department’s role was providing the aircraft. The department sent charted planes to Wuhan to pick up some 800 consulate workers, their families and other Americans. The planes otherwise were going to be empty on the way to China, so officials decided to fill the jets with goods donated by Samaritan’s Purse, the Boeing Company, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Intermountain Healthcare.
In fact, it didn’t cost taxpayers anything for shipping the goods, although that doesn’t apply to the State Department’s evacuation effort:
Money to help underwrite the effort was provided by Kenneth Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is chief executive of the investment firm Citadel.
How difficult was this to determine? Kessler did his own research, talking with Project HOPE’s CEO, but he also notes that the major donors involved all put out press releases at the time to highlight their charitable efforts. Those include Boeing, which chipped in 250K medical masks, as well as the Mormon Church, which added 220,000 more. Kessler also notes that the World Health Organization was pleading for donations of PPE from around the world in an effort to contain the outbreak to China — which by February 7 was already a lost cause, thanks in large part to WHO’s parroting of China’s propaganda:
“There is limited stock of PPE and we need to make sure we get it to the people who need it most in the places that need it most. … WHO discourages stockpiling of PPE in countries and areas where transmission is low.”
In other words, the same people who are hyperventilating over Trump’s snubs of WHO are now trying to blame him for something Trump didn’t do in the first place — and for actions that WHO demanded at the time. Only Democrats and demagogues could possibly square that circle.
At any rate, the PPE never did belong to the US government, and Trump didn’t have any authority to seize it, either. If he had seized it in early February, the same people pushing this nonsense would have hyperventilated over that, likely calling Trump a racist and xenophobe for not helping Chinese victims of the Wuhan plague. Kessler gives American Bridge 21st Century two Pinocchios for this false attack:
The line in the ad is carefully, even cleverly, worded, keeping it just shy of the Three Pinocchio mark. But it’s misleading enough to earn Two Pinocchios.
That seems a bit generous to me, but kudos to Kessler for debunking it at all.