On the same day that President Donald Trump acknowledged that somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans were likely to die because of the coronavirus, California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes went on Fox News to offer a very, uh, different perspective.
'Let's stop looking at the death counters and let's talk about how we can keep as many people employed as possible,' Nunes told Fox anchor Laura Ingraham. 'That's the key right now, Laura, because if you don't, what you said earlier is correct. When you have people staying at home, not taking care of themselves, you will end up with a hell of a lot more people dying by other causes than you will by the coronavirus.'
Which is bad enough! But Nunes wasn't done! Far from it! (Also, shout-out to my producer Alli Gordon for transcribing this whole interview!)
'I mean, look, the schools were just canceled out here in California which is way overkill,' he added. 'It's possible kids could've went back to school in two weeks to four weeks but they just canceled the rest of the schools.'
And then there was this: 'If we don't start to get people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks, I don't believe we can wait until the end of April. I just don't know of any economy that's ever survived where you unplug the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal.'
It's as though Nunes is living in some alternate universe here. In Nunes' world, kids need to be going back to school. More people will die from staying home than returning to normal and spreading (or catching) the coronavirus! The economy will fail unless we start sending people back to work in two weeks!
Nunes is not -- and this fact may surprise you -- a doctor. Or an infectious disease expert. All of whom have pushed Trump to extend the social distancing guidelines in place for another month. And who have forced Trump to publicly admit that, even if we follow those guidelines to a T, we could well lose hundreds of thousands of Americans to the virus.
Of course, this isn't the first time Nunes has pushed information publicly that goes directly against the advice from the medical community about how best to deal with the spread of coronavirus.
In mid-March, Nunes told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo this:
'There's a lot of concerns with the economy here, because people are scared to go out. But I will just say, one of the things you can do, if you're healthy, you and your family, it's a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily.'
Even at that time what Nunes was suggesting -- go out to eat because it will be easy to get a table since so many people are staying in -- was directly opposed to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Trump administration, which was encouraging staying at home and certainly not gathering in a restaurant (or anywhere else) with crowds.
Then, days later, Nunes was back at it in an interview with a California conservative radio host. Nunes accused the media of twisting his words in the interview with Bartiromo; 'Don't say that I was telling people to go out to bars and drink and go to discotheques and whatever other nonsense they were doing,' he scolded.
And he offered up another pearl of wisdom, questioning the infectiousness of coronavirus:
'If this virus is really spreading like some people say that it is, we don't have any data on that, but if it is spreading, think how much it is spreading all over the country right now with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people going into grocery stores, OK?'
The problem here -- OK, one of the problems here -- is that Nunes isn't some random dude shouting these things on his porch. He is the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, and he is broadcasting these, uh, views, on Fox's umbrella of news networks, which are the default information source for large numbers of conservatives in the country.
All of which makes what Nunes is doing not just irresponsible but actively dangerous to the health and well-being of Americans right now.