‘Get him off TV’: Rep. Kevin McCarthy told Trump his daily COVID-19 briefings were backfiring: book

trump coronavirus briefing
President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing on the coronavirus outbreak from the White House on March 16, 2020.
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy wanted Trump to stop his daily COVID-19 briefings, according to a new book.
  • "We've got to get him off TV," McCarthy told Republican leaders in April 2020.
  • The conversation comes in a new book by ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

Many people in then-President Donald Trump's orbit believed that his appearances at daily live COVID-19 press briefings last spring were chaotic and unproductive, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy wanted to "get him off TV," according to a new book by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl.

The comments took place in late April 2020, a day after the president made his infamous remarks at a briefing suggesting disinfectant could be used to treat coronavirus. McCarthy, the House Republican leader, was on his way for a lunch invitation at the White House with Republican Reps. Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney and said that they had a mission to accomplish, per the book.

"We've got to get him off TV," McCarthy told his fellow GOP leaders at the time, according to Karl's forthcoming book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show." Insider obtained an early copy of the book, which is set for publication on Tuesday.

At the meeting on April 24, McCarthy tried to convince Trump to end the briefings, which had started in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the country. Trump would go to the live press conferences, alongside members of his coronavirus task force including Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, and used the time to praise his pandemic response and promote himself. At the time, Trump faced declining public approval ratings over his administration's handling of the outbreak.

McCarthy told Trump that the briefings were backfiring, according to the book. But Trump resisted, saying the briefings were the hottest show on TV and drew huge ratings, per the book. Trump showed up to a briefing later that day.

Yet in the days after, Trump began to hear more about his low poll numbers from his campaign advisors, and stopped going to the briefings as often, per the book. Eventually, the briefings happened less and less, and Trump shifted his focus to his 2020 reelection.

A spokesperson for McCarthy did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Besides the disinfectant comments, the COVID-19 briefings often had controversial moments, including Trump's unproven claims that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could treat the virus, him calling COVID-19 the "China virus," not wearing a mask, attacking Democratic governors, and downplaying the severity of the disease and the outbreak.

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