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Democratic candidates hit Trump's coronavirus 'hoax' claim

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Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on the eve of the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28, 2020 in North Charleston, S.C.   -   Copyright  Spencer Platt Getty Images
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Democratic presidential candidates on Saturday ripped Donald Trump's claim that the coronavirusis the Democrats' "new hoax," calling the charge "dangerous" and "disturbing."

Trump made the assertion during a rally in South CarolinaFriday night, where he told the crowd Democrats have been "politicizing" the outbreak. He said he'd already endured Russia and the "impeachment hoax."

"This is their new hoax," Trump continued, before assuring rallygoers that his administration is on top of the issue.

"But you know we did something that's pretty amazing — we're 15 people in the massive country because of the fact that we went early we could have had a lot more than that. We're doing great. Our country is doing great," he said, referring to the number of known cases in the United States.

Shortly after his remarks, officials in California, Oregon and Washington State announced three new confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

Former Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC that Trump's comments were "absolutely bizarre."

"Look, this is a serious, serious problem. It's able to be solved, but it requires us to be absolutely level-headed and let the scientists have the lead in all of this," Biden said. "But for him to start talking about it being a hoax is absolutely dangerous. It's just not a decent way to act."

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told the "Today" show Saturday that he's "very concerned" with how the administration has handled the issue to date.

"I was particularly disturbed to hear the word 'hoax' used by the president," he said. "Our lives depend on the wisdom and the judgment of the president at a time like this and what we should be seeing is not only a reliance on science and an insistence on moving politics away from this, but the kind of coordination that is uniquely the leadership role of the United States," both at home and abroad, he added.

Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, appearing at a "Women for Mike" rally in McLean, Va., said, "The president should be putting politics aside and rallying the American people behind him he continues to divide by playing partisan politics. We just can't do this."

Bloomberg announced in a press release that if elected president, he would invite back the estimated 1,600 "scientists who were pressured to resign or let go from the federal government under President Trump."

"The coronavirus outbreak is the latest example of the damage he is doing. He has downplayed the dangers, made claims about the virus that have no basis in science, and failed to prepare for a deadly pandemic — leaving Americans deeply unsettled," Bloomberg said.

Some Republicans have said such criticism shows the Democrats are indeed politicizing the issue.

"We should be coming together to combat the coronavirus, but the left is attacking what they fear," tweetedSen. Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn. "They fear we will get the job done right."

Trump has been criticized for painting an overly rosy picture of the outbreak, often contradicting his own health officials.

Democrats have pointed to his initial funding request of $2.5 billion to respond to the outbreak — much of which would have come from programs that help the poor — as well as the Centers for Disease Control's struggles in making reliable testing kits available for the public and a whistleblower report that Health and Human Services workers were sent without proper protective gear to interact with Americans who'd been evacuated from China, as potential trouble signs.

At the rally, Trump cited his decision at the beginning of February to ban foreign nationals who'd recently traveled to China as proof that his administration is "totally prepared" to address the virus.

"Democrats will always say horrible things," Trump said. "Democrats want us to fail so badly."

The president's remarks also came hours after Vice President Mike Pence — who Trump has put in charge of coronoavirus response — told radio host Rush Limbaugh the administration was working with Democrats to combat the problem.

"We're all in this together," Pence said.