PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor was right. President Trump did question governors’ ventilator requests.

March 31, 2020 and
Category: Fact-Checking

Editor’s note: PolitiFact, which is owned by the Poynter Institute, is fact-checking misinformation about the coronavirus. This article is republished with permission, and originally appeared here.

If your time is short

  • When journalist Yamiche Alcindor asked a question of President Donald Trump, she was accurately citing a previous comment Trump had made on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show.
  • During the interview with Hannity, Trump said, “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers (for ventilators) that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

See the sources for this fact-check

President Donald Trump argued with “PBS NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor over what the president had said, or hadn’t said, about New York’s need for ventilators.

Ventilators are a type of medical equipment considered vital for saving the lives of patients hit hardest by the virus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made urgent calls for more ventilators to cope with a rising number of hospitalizations in his state due to coronavirus.

“All the predictions say you could have an apex needing 140,000 beds and about 40,000 ventilators,” Cuomo told reporters March 27, citing estimates by Weill Cornell Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and McKinsey & Co.

Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious-disease specialist who is on the White House’s coronavirus task force, told CNN, “There are a lot of different calculations. My experience, I tend to believe Gov. Cuomo.”

The exchange between Trump and Alcindor came during a March 29 Rose Garden press conference. It unfolded this way:

Alcindor: “You’ve said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don’t actually need. You said New York might need —”

Trump: “I didn’t say that.”

Alcindor: “— might not need 30,000.”

Trump: “I didn’t say that.”

Alcindor: “You said it on Sean Hannity’s, Fox News.”

Trump: “I didn’t say — come on. Come on.”

The exchange continued, with Trump at one point telling Alcindor, “Be nice. Don’t be threatening.” He later cut her off before she was able to ask her second question, although another reporter subsequently handed her the microphone so that she could ask it.

Here, we’ll look at the substance of the dispute between Trump and Alcindor. Which of them was right about what he said during a March 26 phone interview on Hannity’s show on Fox News?

Alcindor was.

When we looked at Trump’s interview with Hannity, we found two portions in which Trump addressed this question.

Here’s the first:

“Gov. Cuomo and others that say we want, you know, 30,000 of them (ventilators). 30,000! All right. Think of this. You know, you go to hospitals, they’ll have one in a hospital. And now, all of a sudden everybody’s asking for these vast numbers.”

Later, Hannity picked up on this theme. Hannity said he was “kind of angry at Andrew Cuomo. I had a great — I had him on radio for 40 minutes, great conversation. I grew up in — I was born and raised in New York. And then it’s, ‘I need 30,000 ventilators.’ And I’m like OK, it really — it was annoying me.”

Trump subsequently echoed this sentiment.

“New York is a bigger deal. But it’s going to go also. But I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you’re going to major hospitals sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, can we order 30,000 ventilators?”

So, contrary to Trump’s repeated denials during the press conference, this passage clearly shows that the president told Hannity that he feels the numbers of ventilators being requested by governors, including Cuomo, are higher than what’s needed.

Our ruling

Trump told Alcindor that “I didn’t say that” some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don’t actually need.

That’s directly refuted by Trump’s comments during Hannity’s show, in which he said, “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

We rate the statement Pants on Fire.

PolitiFact, which is fact-checking misinformation about the coronavirus, is part of the Poynter Institute. See more of their fact-checks at politifact.com/coronavirus.