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Senator Ron Wyden says Trump will "go down in history" for turning pandemic into "culture war"

Senator Ron Wyden slammed President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the president "will go down in history for turning a public health crisis into a culture war."

"What a mess Donald Trump has made of coronavirus policy," the Oregon Democrat said in an interview with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast. "Donald Trump will go down in history as turning a public health crisis into a culture war. I just believe that's led to the needless deaths of so many of our friends and neighbors."

Listen to this episode on ART19

Highlights from this week's episode:

  • Senator Ron Wyden on President Trump's response to the coronavirus: "Donald Trump will go down in history as turning a public health crisis into a culture war. I just believe that's led to the needless deaths of so many of our friends and neighbors."
  • Vaccinations: "I hope the culture war that Trump brought with respect to even wearing a mask...I hope that that kind of taking public health policy, turning it into a culture war, doesn't bleed into the whole question of vaccinations."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "His conduct over the last few months, I don't know how to describe other than unconscionable. Because I believe he really didn't care, for example, that people's unemployment benefits are gonna lapse because he refuses to do anything."

Wyden also made reference to the "cultural debate" over wearing a mask. Mr. Trump downplayed the importance of wearing a mask for months, even after health experts said that wearing facial coverings could mitigate the spread of the virus. But earlier this month, the president tweeted his support for wearing a mask.

However, on Monday Mr. Trump retweeted a video (which has since been taken down from social media platforms) of a doctor who criticized wearing a mask. Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, suggested without evidence that wearing a mask had made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.

Although the administration has launched "Operation Warp Speed" to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible, Wyden expressed concern that the politicization of the virus would deter people from getting vaccinated.

"I hope the culture war that Trump brought with respect to even wearing a mask...I hope that that kind of taking public health policy, turning it into a culture war, doesn't bleed into the whole question of vaccinations," Wyden said. "Because in this country, when we get that vaccination, we're gonna have to be all-in because it's going to be critically important to the safety of our country."

Wyden also talked about congressional negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package. He accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of being "AWOL" in negotiations. And he criticized McConnell for not bringing the relief package passed in the House to the Senate floor.

"His conduct over the last few months, I don't know how to describe other than unconscionable. Because I believe he really didn't care, for example, that people's unemployment benefits are gonna lapse because he refuses to do anything," Wyden said, referring to the popular weekly $600 unemployment payment established by the CARES Act, a provision that expires Friday. Democrats and Republicans remain stalled on the next coronavirus relief legislation.

For more of Major's conversation with Wyden, download "The Takeout" podcast on Art19, iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin, Julia Boccagno and Grace Segers
Show email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com
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