During an interview on Fox News Sunday, President Donald Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes was triggered by host Chris Wallace’s blunt criticism of the Trump family and close allies over their refusal to wear masks.
The interview got heated from the start after Wallace noted that seven people who attended the White House event with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett were not wearing masks and have now tested positive for COVID-19.
“People packed together, the vast majority not wearing masks,” Wallace said. “How does that make sense?”
Cortes defended Trump by saying the White House took “tremendous precautions” to protect the president, including testing people in close contact with him.
“The fact that he still got infected shows us that unfortunately, this virus has that kind of power,” Cortes said. “The president, though, and he’s made this clear, he was unwilling to completely sequester himself, to take no risk, because leaders take risks. And he is the servant of the people as well as the commander-in-chief and so he said he must be around the people he serves. He took reasonable risks.”
“Let’s talk about reasonable risks,” Wallace pushed back. “Because there was the debate on Tuesday night that I moderated. The rules from the Cleveland Clinic could not have been more clear. Everyone in the audience was to wear a mask.”
“After the first family came in, they all took off their masks,” the Fox News host pointed out. “So did the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Do they think that the health and safety rules for everybody else do no apply to them?”
“No, that’s not the reality,” Cortes stuttered. “Everybody was tested before that event as you well know. Those of us who went first were tested by Cleveland Clinic directly.”
“Steve, it doesn’t matter,” Wallace interrupted. “Everybody in that room was tested and the Cleveland Clinic’s regulation was, it didn’t matter, everybody except for the three of us on the stage was to wear a mask and people from the Cleveland Clinic came over and offered the first family masks, thinking maybe they didn’t have them. They were waved away and the Commission on Presidential Debates has issued a statement saying, from now on if you don’t wear a mask, you’re going to be escorted from the hall.”
“So forget this question of being tested beforehand,” he added. “Everybody was tested beforehand. No! I’m going to finish my question. Everybody was told to wear a mask. Why did the first family and the chief of staff feel that the rules for everybody else didn’t apply to them?”
Cortes replied by calling masks “very useful.”
“We also believe in some element of individual choice,” he continued. “People were distanced and they had been tested.”
“No!” Wallace interrupted. “Steve, they weren’t distanced and there were rules and there was no freedom of choice. They broke the rules!”
“I was there like you were and they were distanced!” Cortes exclaimed.
“No, they broke the rules!” Wallace insisted. “Why did they break the rules?”
“Chris, the way you’re starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during that debate on Tuesday night,” Cortes shot back. “You were not a neutral moderator then. I don’t mind tough questions. I welcome reasonably tough questions. What I don’t think is OK is for you to become the effective opposition to the president.”
“The president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times,” Wallace observed. “So I object to you saying I harangued the president. I know it’s the talking point.”
Watch the exchange in the video below: