With campaign rallies on hold indefinitely and President Donald Trump controlling the television airwaves, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden enlisted the aid of state Rep. Shevrin Jones this week for a virtual town hall to hear from workers and criticize Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones, a West Park Democrat who is running for the state Senate, helped field questions from a meat-processing worker, a mass-transit bus driver and a grocery-store clerk during the hour-long webcast Wednesday.
The selection of Jones as moderator for the event with union members highlights the significance of Florida, a swing state Republicans and Democrats consider crucial for a White House win in November.
“This crisis has underscored our country’s need for a president who will prioritize the lives of the people,” Jones, a gay Broward County legislator who is black, said. “I look forward to your victory. … I’m going to ride with you until the final day and so we can say, Vice President Joe Biden is the president of the United States.”
The workers who participated in the webcast said some of their colleagues had succumbed to COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Biden accused Trump of “foot dragging and delays” and of failing to take responsibility “for any mistake he’s made” in the federal government’s response to the virus, which was first reported in China late last year.
“He’s not doing enough to help governors and mayors who are leading this response, is not bringing this country together. He likes to say he’s a wartime president. Well, he needs to be able to step up and act like one,” Biden said.
The vice president also blasted Trump for criticizing the media, saying the president needs to “not harangue the press for hours on end” during his daily appearances.
“While people are dying, your friends and co-workers are dying, our family members and friends and neighbors are dying, Trump is having a temper tantrum about his authority or whatever he wants as president,” he said. “Well, have we heard him offer anything that approaches a sincere expression of empathy for the people that are hurting? Have we seen any sign that he grasps just how hard it will be for people to recover from this, not just economically, but physically and emotionally as well? I don’t think this is appropriate conduct for president.”
Biden’s performance drew sarcasm from Trump’s campaign team, which has repeatedly characterized the former vice president as doddering and unfit to serve as president.
“Biden referred to the coronavirus as ‘COVID-9,’ proving yet again he’s not up for the job,” Trump’s campaign said in a news release.
The president has provided “unprecedented and overwhelming assistance” to states in need of aid, the release said.
“Between his low-energy teleprompter reliance and his spreading of more disinformation, Joe Biden continues to demonstrate to voters that he isn’t up for the job of leading America out of this crisis,” Trump’s campaign said.