Billionaire Barry Diller says "no chance" of economic rebound by summer, calls Trump a "witch doctor"

Billionaire Barry Diller says "no chance" of economic rebound by fall

American businessman Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and ExpediaGroup, threw cold water on the possibility that the U.S. economy, which has been brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, would rebound by the summer, saying there was "no chance" that would occur.

"To anyone who thinks that this economy is going to bounce, I mean you'd have to have the idea of a rubber ball not in existence to think it's going to bounce high," Diller said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "It can't. The damage that's being done is catastrophic."

Asked whether the economy could turn around by the summer, Diller said "there's no chance."

The coronavirus pandemic has battered the U.S. economy, as schools, restaurants, theaters and other businesses were ordered to close their doors in an effort to slow the spread of the illness. More than 26 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits, and White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett warned Sunday that the unemployment rate could reach 16%.

While some governors have extended stay-at-home orders into May and ordered nonessential businesses to remain shuttered, others have begun to ease restrictions as they look to revive their economies. 

Congress, meanwhile, passed emergency legislation last week to replenish the fast-depleted Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to small businesses to continue paying employees and their own bills.

Despite the aid to ailing small businesses, Diller predicted there will be "widespread bankruptcies" as an "enormous number of businesses" have no revenue coming in.

"You're going to have a massive amount of businesses that can't return, businesses that go bankrupt. It's inevitable," he said. "And hopefully, the government will, so to speak, pick up the tab, because this is an existential crisis and we shouldn't worry so much about doing it in a neat way. It ought to be sloppy to get that money out to everybody who needs it."

As some governors begin looking toward a reopening of their states, industries have also started preparing for a return to normalcy while also ensuring the safety of their employees and consumers. Airlines, for example, have discussed having flight attendants wear masks. Taking out the middle seat has also been floated to maintain social distancing.

But Diller said the idea of removing middle seats is "absurd" and said any kind of social distancing in entities such as restaurants and theaters is a "myth." He also said the onus will be on the federal government to inform Americans of what they must do before resuming their normal activities.

"We're going to have to be told," he said. "Now, unfortunately, we have a witch doctor as a president and he ain't going to tell us. But the science part of it, I think that has to be translated into more practical solutions. So somebody is gonna have to say, 'Yes, you must wear masks, period, or no, take your chances.'"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for Americans to follow, which are in place until the end of April. It's unclear whether President Trump will extend the social distancing measures into May.