Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden emerged from seclusion Tuesday to criticize President Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis, saying the president has “waved the white flag” in the face of the surging pandemic.
“America knows this crisis isn’t behind us,” Mr. Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. “We don’t need a cheerleader, Mr. President. We need a president.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee chided Mr. Trump for calling himself a “wartime president” battling the outbreak.
“What happened? Now, it’s almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered, waved the white flag, and left the battlefield,” Mr. Biden said.
He held up a face mask at one point and urged Americans to wear them.
“Wear a mask. It’s not just about you,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s about your neighbors, it’s about your colleagues, it’s about keeping other people safe… It may be inconvenient, it may be uncomfortable, but it’s the right thing to do as an American.”
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said Mr. Biden was engaging in the “same tired attacks on President Trump’s federal coronavirus response.”
“Since the beginning, he has done nothing but lob partisan grenades from his basement in Delaware, while facing very little scrutiny for his own record,” Mr. Murtaugh told reporters. “The only thing that Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that he can’t.”
He was referring to the Obama administration’s oft-criticized response to a swine flu outbreak.
Mr. Biden said he has not been tested for COVID-19, but will likely get a test soon due to going out in public more often.
“I have not had symptoms,” he said.
Mr. Trump held a “comeback” rally more than a week ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, although it wasn’t well-attended. Mr. Biden said he has no plans to hold campaign rallies due to the coronavirus.
“This is the most unusual campaign in modern history,” he said. “I’m going to follow the doc’s orders. That means I am not going to be holding rallies. You know me, I’d much rather be out there with people. That’s where I get the greatest feel.”
But he said “the irony is we’ve probably reached more people directly [online].”
“They tell me than 200 million people have watched what I’ve done from home,” Mr. Biden said. “But I’d much rather be doing it in person.”
Asked about his double-digit lead in national polls, Mr. Biden replied, “I don’t want to jinx myself. I know the polling data is very good, but I think it’s really early.”
Mr. Biden said the country can’t fight the pandemic effectively if people remain divided politically.
“We have to meet it as one country,” he said. “We can’t continue like this — half recovering and half getting worse. We can’t continue, half wearing masks and half rejecting science.”