Trump, Biden Clash Over COVID-19 Vaccine Rhetoric

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday unleashed another extended verbal attack on his opponent in the November election, claiming that the Democratic Party nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris “should immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric.” Biden said on Monday that he would like to see a vaccine tomorrow, even if it cost him the election. But “if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it” because the president’s repeated misstatements and falsehoods with respect to the virus are “undermining public confidence.” “He’s said so many things that aren’t true,” Biden said. Trump, holding his first news conference on the North Portico of the White House, said that contrary to “political lies,” any vaccine approved for mass inoculation by the federal government will be “very safe and very effective.”  The Republican and Democratic party nominees made their remarks as the presidential campaign turned to the homestretch on the annual Labor Day holiday – a time when COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is still killing about 1,000 Americans every day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.    Biden went Monday to the key political battleground state of Pennsylvania in the eastern U.S. for a virtual town hall with AFL-CIO union President Richard Trumka in the state capital of Harrisburg.  Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during an event with local union members in the backyard of a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sept. 7, 2020.Biden, a former vice president, has accused Trump of mismanaging the pandemic, spawning greater economic turmoil and the layoffs of millions of workers. Trump, in contrast, hailed his administration’s performance amid the pandemic, predicting a swift, “Super-V” recovery for the U.S. economy and predicting that if Biden, whom he called “a stupid person,” wins the election, “China will own this country.”  Trump has portrayed himself as standing up to China on trade issues and criticizing that country for allowing the coronavirus to spread globally, wrecking America’s economic recovery.   The U.S. jobless rate dipped to 8.4% in August, but economic experts say it could take months for a more robust recovery to take hold. Only about half the 22 million jobs that were lost in the pandemic have been recovered, with many employers paring their payrolls even as they have reopened their businesses.  President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the North Portico of the White House, Sept. 7, 2020, in Washington.Biden is collecting endorsements from three organized labor groups: The Laborers’ International Union of North America, the International Union of Elevator Constructors and the National Federation of Federal Employees.  Collectively, the three unions represent hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide the Biden campaign hopes to mobilize for support.  Trump has emphasized his endorsement for the unions representing police officers, stressing a “law and order” message amid peaceful urban demonstrations and some violence at protests in response to the deaths of Blacks by police in numerous cities.  Trump is also fighting to maintain support among veterans and those serving in the U.S. military after a magazine, citing four unnamed people, reported that he had referred to Marines buried in an American cemetery near Paris as “losers” and “suckers” and declined to visit their graves during a 2018 trip to France.   “Only an animal would say that,” Trump replied when asked about The Atlantic’s article during Monday’s news conference. He termed the article a “phony story” that others have refuted.  Several news organizations, including Fox News, which is generally sympathetic to Trump, have confirmed elements of the story, attributed to their own sources, which they have not named.  Biden on Monday met with three union workers who had served in the U.S. military at a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Do you think most of those guys and women are suckers?” Biden asked, adding a sarcastic chuckle. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens during a tour of the IBEW 494 training facility in Milwaukee, Sept. 7, 2020.Biden’s vice presidential running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, and Vice President Mike Pence both visited the highly contested battleground state of Wisconsin in the Midwest on Monday.   FILE – Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event on the grounds of Kuharchik Construction, Inc., in Exeter, Pa., Sept. 1, 2020.Harris, in her first solo, in-person campaign appearance as part of Biden’s ticket, met with unionized electrical workers and Black business owners in Milwaukee. She also met with the family and legal team of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot and paralyzed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in front of three of his children last month.  Pence, Trump’s second in command, toured an energy facility in the city of La Crosse.  Both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two traditionally Democratic states that Trump won in 2016 to help him capture a four-year White House term, are again expected to be pivotal states this November. Polls show Biden narrowly ahead in both states.  Biden, who has a thin lead in some other battleground states, is maintaining his advantage over Trump in national polls by about 7 percentage points.  While the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed about 190,000 people in the country, has sharply curtailed huge political rallies that are a mainstay of typical U.S. presidential campaigns, both Trump and Biden are planning numerous trips in the coming weeks to politically important states in front of more modest crowds.  Trump plans to visit North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania later in the week.  Biden plans to return to Pennsylvania on Friday, when both he and Trump plan to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the U.S. in Shanksville, where a jetliner crashed into a field as passengers tried to commandeer the plane from the hijackers. Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.