Trump Encounters a Tough New Adversary in ‘Disgraceful’ Paula Reid

He’s battled PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, belittled NBC’s Peter Alexander, and even temporarily banned CNN’s Jim Acosta. And on Monday afternoon at his daily coronavirus briefing—this one two-and-half-hours long and even more contentious than any that has preceded it—President Donald Trump found yet another sparring partner among the Washington press corps.

But this one, CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid, gave as good as she got and soon afterward quickly became a Twitter sensation.

There were signs early in the briefing that a battle between the president and another member of the press was in the offing. Shortly after arriving at the podium, Trump turned to Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, and asked him to “say a few words before we go any further.”

It clearly seemed an orchestrated prompt for Fauci to apologize for comments he had made on Sunday to CNN’s Jake Tapper, in which Fauci seemed to confirm that he and other health experts had made mitigation recommendations to the president as early as the third weekend of February and said that earlier mitigation “could have saved lives.”

And indeed, when he took the microphone, Fauci appeared to back away from those comments—describing his Sunday remarks to CNN as “a poor choice of words.”

That’s when Reid jumped in, asking, “Are you doing this voluntarily or did the president...”

“No,” Fauci immediately replied, cutting off the rest of her question. “Everything I do is voluntarily. Please don’t even imply that.”

<cite class="credit">Photo: CNN</cite>
Photo: CNN

That exchange was just an amuse-bouche for the main course to come.

First, Trump showed what looked like a campaign video, touting his “accomplishments” during the pandemic and using a timeline that jumped from January (when the first travel restrictions were imposed) to March (when the White House and governors around the country began to impose social distancing directives). Reid jumped on the fact that February got only one brief mention in the congratulatory video and pressed him on that time gap and how the White House failed to produce any real action that month.

“The time that you bought,” she said, as the president began to glower at her. “You didn’t use it to prepare hospitals. You didn’t use it to ramp up testing.”

Trump immediately tried to cut her off. “You’re so disgraceful,” he said. “It’s so disgraceful the way you say that.”

The two continued sparring for two or three minutes, each talking over the other, as Reid tried to press her questions and Trump dismissed them.

“How is this rant supposed to make people feel confident [during] an unprecedented crisis?!” Reid said, before asking one more time: “What did your administration do in February with the time that your travel ban bought?”

“A lot,” Trump said, adding, “We’ll give you a list.” Then, he sounded a familiar refrain: “You know you’re a fake. You know that. Your whole network. The way you cover it is a fake,” adding a minute later: “The problem is the press. It doesn’t cover this the way it should be.”

With that, he turned away from Reid and pointed to another reporter in the room.

Soon, Paula Reid became a trending topic on Twitter.

“Hats off to @PaulaReidCBS,” tweeted the writer Amee Vanderpool, “who did not ease up even a little bit on Trump and demanded he list anything his administration has done to stop the spread of the coronavirus for the entire month of February...he couldn’t.”

“Paula Reid just started picking Trump’s lies apart,” John Rehling tweeted to his 66,000 followers. “It’s like a magnet. She didn’t even wait. And when you are a reporter, they let you do it. #PressBriefing #TrumpMeldtown."

“That’s Paula Reid, over at CBS,” Robert Caruso tweeted to those who watched the chaotic briefing but did not recognize the reporter challenging the president. “She’s a real tiger. One time she followed Bob Gates for 20 minutes for comment. She’s not afraid of Trump.”

For her part, Reid, who joined CBS in 2010 and has been covering the Justice Department and the White House since 2014, did not comment on the exchange with the Trump. Her sole tweet after the briefing was over was this: “Uber driver tonight: ‘If this virus doesn’t unite us, nothing will. This virus is not racist. It’s coming after everyone.’”

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Originally Appeared on Vogue