As Americans adapt to a period of isolation to arrest the spread of the coronavirus crisis while their leaders reevaluate how to move forward, President Trump and many of his allies appear to hold strikingly different views about whether China should be blamed for the global pandemic.
As some of the president's staunchest allies and supporters, both on Capitol Hill and on Fox News, are lambasting China for failing to report the dangers posed by the deadly virus soon enough, Mr. Trump says he has "much respect" for Chinese President Xi Jinping, and says China has "been through much." Mr. Trump spoke with Xi Thursday night.
"Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!" the president tweeted at 1:19 a.m. Friday.
Mr. Trump, who used to call the novel coronavirus the "Chinese virus" when he spoke of it and insisted that China could have and should have done more to prevent this pandemic, has recently dropped his use of language slightly in recent days. "I decided we shouldn't make more of a big deal of it," he explained. He's also shown more of a willingness to trust the data coming out of China on the virus and has declined to criticize Xi directly.
But some of the president's allies continue to point the finger at China. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan in China's Hubei province.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who frequently excoriates China on his nightly show and was one of the few Fox News personalities highlighting the severity of the virus early on, wrote in a Fox News op-ed that when this virus passes, the U.S. will "need to start treating China like the dangerous Cold War level adversary it has clearly become."
"Don't let them lie to you. This crisis began in China, and that's significant, whether coronavirus escaped from a bioresearch lab, as independent Chinese scientists have claimed, or arose in a filthy street market selling wild animals for food. Either way, China's third world health practices played a central role in this disaster," Carlson wrote earlier this month.
Trump acolyte Sean Hannity, for whom Mr. Trump said he delayed his call with Xi Thursday night so he could appear on the Fox News personality's show, has also had strong words for Xi and China.
"Once we beat back coronavirus, China must be held accountable," Hannity said during his show on March 19.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking him to investigate Beijing over its response to COVID-19 and alleged "cover up" allowing the epidemic to spread into a pandemic, according to a letter obtained by CBS News' Catherine Herridge. McCaul recommended that Pompeo pursue a "multilateral investigation into the CCP's (Chinese Community Party) coronavirus coverup," and refute an ongoing "dangerous disinformation campaign" by Beijing. The top Republican also asked Pompeo to release as much information as possible to inform the American people about "this coverup and subsequent disinformation campaign."
Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida introduced a bill earlier this week to make sure no money appropriated by Congress goes towards supporting China or businesses owned by the Chinese government. The proposal is called the "No CHINA Act."
Meanwhile, the president is expected to "immediately" sign adesigned to provide relief and a jolt to the economy once it reaches his desk Friday afternoon.