Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said Vice President Mike Pence is a “nice guy,” but he dismissed him as unqualified to head up the nation’s novel coronavirus response.
Bloomberg’s criticism came just a day after President Donald Trump tapped Pence to coordinate the government’s efforts to address the epidemic.
“He was one of those people that said smoking has nothing to do with cancer,” Bloomberg said. “He just does not have the knowledge to do this job.”
He told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that, if he were elected president, he would not need to appoint a czar to oversee coronavirus because he would already have government officials in place who could respond appropriately.
While the Trump administration and congressional Democrats disagree about how much money should be devoted to develop a vaccine and build up local government responses to prevent a large-scale epidemic, Bloomberg said lawmakers should not argue about specific dollar figures.
“We go about these things backwards,” Bloomberg said. “We’re arguing about money when, we should be arguing about how you save lives.”
Other highlights from the interview:
- Bloomberg made his sixth visit to Texas, just days before the state’s voters head to the polls in one of the first contests where his name will appear on the ballot. The Lone Star state is Super Tuesday’s second-biggest prize after California, but Bloomberg predicted it would be a good day for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading in recent national polling. “I think he’ll certainly get more than anybody else,” Bloomberg said of Sanders’ chances to win the majority of more than 1,300 delegates at stake Tuesday.
- Since launching his campaign in November, Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television advertising. One ad in particular ties the former mayor to former President Barack Obama, even as Obama’s vice president Joe Biden dismisses their connection. Bloomberg said he voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and that the campaigns are largely reflective of their working relationship during the years they were both in office. “I didn’t agree with everything that President Obama did,” Bloomberg said. “We did a lot of things together over eight years. And he’s a friend, and I’ve talked to him a number of times since then, socialized.”
- Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $50 billion, has promised to release his tax returns in the coming weeks, but he told NewsHour those would be redacted versions similar to the disclosures he made as mayor. “I don’t want to hurt the company and all its employees,” Bloomberg said. “But the public has a right to know where my money comes from, anything that could be a possible conflict, and what I do with my money.”
Watch Judy Woodruff’s full interview with Michael Bloomberg in the player above.