The best of times: A tale of two press conferences

“For our homework today we will compare two coronavirus press conferences on different sides of the Atlantic.”

Quentin Letts, Political Sketch writer 

Exhibit one came from London, England, where the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, took questions via the usual televised link.

The dapper Mr Sunak was his usual shimmering self, wanting to make sure everyone was safe and well.

Exhibit two? The free-for-all at the White House in Washington. Did you see it? Amazing. Messier than a Tyson Fury fight. Donald Trump stood at his lectern and pretty much pelted the journalists with cowpats.

He began by showing a campaign-style video which bigged up a certain D Trump, various folk saying what a hero he was and that the press should do more to report that. Mr Trump stood to one side of the stage and nodded in agreement at these stirring tributes to his own brilliance.

When the reporters suggested that a coronavirus press conference, at a time of mass deaths, was perhaps not the place for such a film, the president dropped open his mouth in astonishment at their wetness.

He reloaded his muck-spreader and gave them another prolonged splattering, saying he had played a blinder and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. He told the media they were liars and generally hated by the public. A woman from CBS started to chew his ankle. He tried to flick her off. She clung on. He closed his eyes in disbelief and told her she was a disgrace and a fake.

He also had his science guy, Anthony Fauci, tiptoe up to the lectern to recant apparent criticisms he had made about Mr President’s handling of the crisis. These had been misinterpreted, adjudged Fauci. The CBS ankle-biter wanted to know if Fauci had been forced to say this. Fauci tried pulling a “puh-lease, do us a favour, lady” face but looked more as if he was about to start blubbing. And so it continued. Mayhem. Washington sketchwriters have all the fun.

It remains my duty to return to Mr Sunak’s presentation: a chirrup of country birdsong, the creak of a stationmaster’s barrow, Adlestrop in the afternoon. All right, not quite that peaceful. Mr Sunak was speaking soon after the Office for Budgetary Responsibility suggested we could be looking at a 35 per cent economic hit. That’s shrinkage even worse than what I did to my jumper when I put it on the wrong washing-machine programme. BBC presenters expressed astonishment. The only thing surprising was their surprise. Mr Sunak hoped the hit would be short-term. A rapid bounce was possible. But he was not sure.


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