5 ways Lindsey Graham failed on coronavirus

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The South Carolina senator downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and praised Trump's slow and chaotic response to the crisis.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R) response to the coronavirus pandemic has been much the same as Donald Trump's in recent months.

Both Trump and Graham downplayed the severity of the new coronavirus strain, made false claims about the availability of testing, and praised Trump's slow and chaotic response to the crisis.

Trump has received heavy criticism for those actions in recent weeks. However Graham has largely escaped that same level of scrutiny, despite mirroring Trump on many fronts.

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From refusing the facts to comparing COVID-19 to the annual flu, here's a look at how Graham has struggled to confront the current crisis.

Downplaying the severity

On March 3, Graham compared the coronavirus to the flu during an interview with a local South Carolina television station.

"It's a lot like the flu, and it spreads like the flu," he told Carolina Connection, adding that "the things you would do to avoid the flu, you need to do here to avoid the [corona]virus." He also said that the new coronavirus is "a serious problem, but it's not the plague."

Scientists and experts say comparing the coronavirus to the flu is wrong, according to ABC News. The new virus is up to 10 times more deadly than the flu, and spreads much more quickly.

False testing claims

Graham falsely reassured South Carolinians COVID-19 testing would be widely available in early March.

On March 4, Graham said that testing will become "more robust" by the end of that week, saying he was assured that more than a million testing kits "are going out the door."

Such widespread testing has yet to materialize. More than a month after Graham's promise, Trump's own Health and Human Services Department released a report showing hospitals facing "severe shortages of testing supplies" and necessary medical equipment to fight the virus.

Praising Trump

Though Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis has been widely panned as slow and chaotic, Graham has repeatedly praised his efforts.

On March 11, Graham said Trump is "doing everything he can in my view to stop the spread of the virus."

On April 1, Graham once again praised Trump's response, saying, "The president has done a good job I think."

However, Trump squandered two months — January and February — downplaying the virus' threat and refusing to prepare.

Rather than stockpiling medical supplies, Trump told Americans that the coronavirus outbreak was "totally under control," on Jan. 22. "It's going to be just fine," he added.

After the number of infections began increasing, Trump still refused to take the situation seriously.

On Feb. 26, Trump said that the number of total cases in the country is "going to be down to close to zero" within a couple of days, adding, "that's a pretty good job we've done."

It wasn't until March 13 that Trump finally declared a national emergency.

Like Graham, Trump has praised his own response, giving himself a 10 out of 10.

Voting against workers

In late March, Graham voted to make unemployment benefits less generous in a congressional relief package. The amendment, which tried to place a lower cap on the amount individuals could receive from unemployment insurance, failed to make it into the final bill.

Graham claimed that making such benefits too generous might entice nurses to quit helping people in the middle of a health pandemic.

"So, you're going to have all these well-trained nurses, they're going to make $24 an hour on unemployment," Graham said on March 25. "You're literally incentivizing taking people out of the workforce at a time when we need critical infrastructure supply for the workers."

Threatening the World Health Organization

On Tuesday, Graham threatened to cut off all U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, even in the middle of a global health crisis.

"I'm not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership," Graham, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in charge of WHO funding, told Fox News on April 7.

Graham accused WHO leaders of being "Chinese apologists," adding that the WHO is not "a good investment under the current leadership."

While Graham praised Trump's response, he said that the WHO has "failed miserably when it comes to the coronavirus."

Graham's attack came on the same day Trump attacked the organization during a White House press briefing.

"We want to look into it — World Health Organization — because they really are — they called it wrong. They called it wrong. They really — they missed the call," Trump said.

The WHO declared a public health emergency regarding the new coronavirus on Jan. 30, nearly six weeks before Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.

Graham's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.