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This is a rush transcript of “Fox News Sunday” on March 20, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Trace Gallagher.
President Biden prepares to head to Europe as diplomacy drags on in talks between Russia and Ukraine.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Eat your Wheaties, eat your spinach, it’s going to be a long Thursday.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The high-stakes overseas trip offering the chance to show solidarity with NATO allies, nearly a month since the invasion began.
And as the president lays out the stakes for Beijing if it backs Putin’s fights.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: China will bear was possibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression.
GALLAGHER: And as the White House faces increased pressure at home to do more to help Ukraine —
SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): If it shoots, we should ship it.
GALLAGHER: — we are joined by Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Intelligence Committee, to discuss America’s response to the war.
Plus, two years since the start of the pandemic, a new wave of COVID hits Europe. We’ll ask Surgeon General Vivek Murthy what the rising case overseas could mean for the U.S., only on “FOX News Sunday”.
Then, from filling your gas tank to buying groceries or finding a place to live, inflation is on the rise. We’ll ask the Sunday panel whether the Fed’s actions will provide relief.
All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday.”
GALLAGHER (on camera): And hello again from FOX News in Washington.
Russian forces are pushing deeper into Ukraine, attacking cities but facing continued resistance. They have not yet claimed full control of a major city, but they have cut off at least one. Ukraine’s president is repeating his calls to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And this week, the United Nations said at least 847 civilians have been killed and nearly 1,400 wounded. The real toll is thought to be much higher.
In a moment, we will speak with a key Republican member of the intelligence committee, Senator Ben Sasse.
But we begin this morning with team FOX coverage. Jonathan Hunt in Lviv, which saw its first Russian strikes this week. Aishah Hasnie along the border between Ukraine and Poland, she has the very latest on the humanitarian crisis there.
But first, Mark Meredith at the White House with the very latest on the president’s plans to meet with allies in Europe. Mark, good morning to you.
MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Trace, this week, President Biden is expected to strongly reaffirm America’s commitment to the NATO alliance. He is also expected to urge Russia to pull back as the death toll and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine really appears to grow worse by the hour.
MEREDITH (voice-over): President Biden will meet world leaders at NATO headquarters Thursday to strategize over how best to respond to Russia’s invasion and its growing threat to security across Eastern Europe.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let there be no doubt, no uncertainty, no question, America stands with the forces of freedom.
MEREDITH: As the White House spends billions on military assistance to Ukraine, the president is calling out Vladimir Putin directly.
BIDEN: Oh, I think he is a war criminal.
MEREDITH: The president is also warning countries not to help Russia amid the fallout of unprecedented sanctions.
During a call Friday with China’s president, the U.S. threatened to impose punishments for assisting Russia. However, officials are not publicly saying what those consequences may be.
PSAKI: China has to make a decision for themselves about where they want to stand and how they want the history books to look at them and view their actions.
MEREDITH (on camera): Meantime, pressure is building on the White House to bring surging inflation and rising gas prices under control. Gas prices have come down just slightly from their record highs earlier this month. Tomorrow, we expect the president to outline where the economy stands when he meets with some CEOs right here in D.C. — Trace.
GALLAGHER: And we are going to talk about that. Mark Meredith reporting from the White House — Mark, thank you.
Let’s turn to our chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt. He’s on the ground in western Ukrainian, the city of Lviv — Jonathan.
JONATHAN HUNT, FOX NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Trace, on this fourth Sunday of the war we are getting some of the most disturbing reports yet out of Mariupol, the southern city that has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting of this war. Amid street to street battles there is word now that some Ukrainian refugees are being prevented from leaving for relative safety in western Ukraine and instead of being forced to travel east into Russia where their phones and documents are being seized and then the refugees simply disappear.
This as we get new satellite images from Maxar technology showing the destruction of the theater in Mariupol, under which 1,000 civilians, including children, were said to be hiding when it was hit by a Russian strike. We are told hundreds might still be trapped in the rubble.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meantime, says it’s time for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him and talk and offered that Putin seems unlikely to take up, preferring to address 200,000 adoring supporters in a Moscow stadium under a banner declaring the denazification of Ukraine and having chillingly echoed Stalin this week in calling for the cleansing of Russian society — Trace.
GALLAGHER: You know, Jonathan, we hear a lot about the Russian forces moving in, the Russian forces being stalled. What is the status of Russian forces right now?
HUNT: Well, in the air, trace, they are still carrying out an onslaught. On the ground, they are largely stalled. We’ve seen pictures, for instance, of Russian forces outside Kyiv literally digging into defensive positions rather than offensive ones, seemingly preparing for the long haul, a strategy of attrition as the U.K. ministry of defense has called it.
But look at this map. If the Russians can take and then move forward from southern cities like Mykolaiv, they could effectively cut off the entire eastern half of the country in a line down from Kyiv to the Black Sea and across to the Russian border. That would be tough territory to hold amid a fierce resistance and inevitable insurgent campaign, but it would also be a huge and powerful bargaining chip in any future peace talks — Trace.
GALLAGHER: The question is, do they have the troops to be able to hold that area.
Jonathan Hunt live for us in Lviv — Jonathan, thank you.
Now let’s turn to Aishah Hasnie who is live along the Ukraine-Poland border — Aishah.
AISHAH HASNIE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Trace, good morning to you. Another train just dropped off refugees, Ukrainian refugees, here at this train station. They are going to come in and they are going to be welcomed and greeted and then they will be put on buses and sent to other parts of Poland.
At the beginning of this war, Trace, the U.N. predicted there would be up to 4 million refugees that would flee Ukraine. We are about three weeks in now and already we are over 3 million with Poland taking the brunt of it.
HASNIE (voice-over): They flee however they can, some by foot, others waiting patiently in a line of cars while those from faraway cities crowd trains heading west. Women, children, the elderly, however they arrive, all share similar stories of destruction, heartbreak, and loss.
LUDMILA YANOVSKA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): It was horrible. It was inhumane. I want to live in Ukraine, because I lived there all my life, but it is impossible now. He’s destroying and bombing everything.
HASNIE: Millions have fled their homes, others are still trying. Despite agreeing to established humanitarian corridors to allow aid workers to bring in supplies and get people out, Russia continues to strike indiscriminately, making the journey for some life-threatening, and making it difficult for aid workers on the ground to do their jobs.
TESSA VALK MAYERICK, UNHCR DONOR RELATIONS OFFICER: There are constant curfews and air raids, so a lot of our colleagues are spending time in the bunkers along with Ukrainians themselves. So finding moments where it’s safe for them to do the distribution that’s needed is really important.
HASNIE: Those who do make it across wind up at shelters like this one, housing thousands of families. The shelters so packed, refugees sometimes can only stay a day or two before they must move on and find something more permanent.
HASNIE (on camera): And, Trace, I have to tell you, the mood is really shifting here on the ground in Poland as Russia strikes inch closer and closer to the Polish border. The Poles I’ve talked to here are extremely worried that they might be the next refugees — Trace.
GALLAGHER: As close as 13 miles. Aishah Hasnie live for us along the Polish border with Ukraine — Aishah, thank you.
Joining us here in Washington, Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator, it’s great to have you.
When you were listening to President Zelenskyy, he spoke for two hours on Friday, you were in attendance to that virtual — virtual meeting. Afterwards, you said the following, Senator. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): Zelenskyy needs to win. The Ukrainian freedom fighters need to win. We don’t need them just to lose more slowly. We need them to win.
And to win, they need to kill Russians. And to kill Russians, they need more weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Has already sent considerable military aid, including — now I want to put this on the screen — Stinger antiaircraft systems, Javelin anti-armor weapons, radar systems, grenade launchers, guns and ammo, helicopters, boats and vehicles, tactical gear and medical equipment. As of this week, the U.S. is also sending switchblade drones.
Short of sending these fighter jets that people have talked about, what else would you add to that list, Senator?
SASSE: Well, so, we need more Javelins. We need more Stingers. We need the switchblade drones to have been there weeks ago.
The biggest problem here is that the administration has a bunch of lawyers who are treating this as if it’s a CYA P.R. crisis instead of the national security crisis it is.
And so, my message to the president is simple. Stop listening to all of your advisors who say Zelenskyy is a dead man walking. Stop listening to those who said that Ukraine is inevitably going to lose.
We should hear the president’s strategy to help Ukraine win. We should be on the side of these freedom fighters and we’re too slow on almost every step we take.
GALLAGHER: But when you say “win”, do you mean that we should help Zelenskyy, help Ukraine, win at all costs?
SASSE: We have a bunch of fighters in Ukraine. By that I mean the free — the West has a bunch of fighters in Ukraine and that is the Ukrainians. These 44 million people have been heroic in fighting for values that are universal, but associated around the world with American beliefs and freedom.
We don’t need to have fighter pilots in the air. We don’t need to have boots on the ground inside Ukraine, because Ukrainians have the will to fight. We need to have the will to rearm them constantly.
GALLAGHER: This week, Senator, you voted against a massive spending bill that included an aid package for Ukraine.
Do you see a mixed message there? You’ve said you’re against an all-or- nothing approach and that you think your critics are being political here, but do you see the potential at least for a stand-alone aid package that might sail through?
SASSE: The administrations should have sent up an emergency supplemental weeks and weeks ago.
The bill we passed this week was crap. It’s thousands of pages. It comes out in the middle of the night. The Ukrainian aid portion of that omnibus was eight-tenths of 1 percent of the bill.
We should be focused on the urgent issue, which is rearming the Ukrainians, and I could have been done as a stand-alone bill in 10 minutes.
GALLAGHER: Yeah. This week the House voted to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus. The bill raises tariffs on goods from both countries and obligates the White House to make a push to remove Russia from the World Trade Organization.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer intends to move this through the Senate quickly to get the bill to the president’s desk.
Where do you plan, Senator, to vote on this bill?
SASSE: Yeah, we should cut the Russians off from the — from the global economy. I’m a zealous free trader, but this isn’t an issue of free trade. This is about an illegal, immoral, unjust invasion of Ukraine, and we should be cutting Russia off from all international markets.
GALLAGHER: Your Republican colleague, Senator Mike Crapo, has said that he’s looking to include the Russian oil ban in the legislation. Would you have any objections to the bill if the ban is not included in that?
SASSE: We should take every extra step we can to cut Russia off from global markets more and more and more. That should include oil.
We should also be moving toward energy independence. The Biden demonstration should get out of the way of North American energy production so that Europeans don’t continue to make so many stupid decisions of tying themselves to Putin and Putin’s energy supplies.
So we should cut off Russia from energy supplies but we should be taking every step to ratchet up the pressure on Putin (ph).
GALLAGHER: We’re going to talk with us later but what do you make of Saudi Arabia and China? This oil deal?
And the reason I ask is because there’s now talk that they could use Chinese currency for this, right? And that’s a big deal because, you know, the U.S. dollar has been the benchmark —
GALLAGHER: — for oil, international all trading oil. And now, you know, Saudi Arabia unhappy with United States and kind of inching towards China.
SASSE: Yeah. So, first of all, just this point of the Saudis pricing some of their commodity in Chinese currency or signaling that’s where they’re headed, that is a big, bad thing. But let’s take a bigger step up.
The 10-year out existential battle on the globe is between the United States and Western values against the Chinese Communist Party’s exported surveillance, state oppression of people around the globe.
And a lot of people would say, hey, Sasse, you’re always saying we need to be pivoting towards Asia, we need to be focused on the long-term technology battle with the CCP, why is the Russian invasion of Ukraine such a bad deal? Why is it such a big deal at this moment? Partly because Chairman Xi green-lit this invasion.
And so, we need to recognize that defeating Vladimir Putin or helping the Ukrainians defeat Putin here is an important shot across the bow of Chairman Xi, who wanted to see if the West had any will to stand up to Putin because Xi desires to seize Taiwan.
And so, these things like trying to displace the dollar, which is one of the Chinese Communist Party’s objectives, we need to keep our eye on this because we need to demonstrate that freedom-loving peoples around the world would rather have U.S. leadership than Chinese oppression.
GALLAGHER: When you hear the White House say, you know, the president and Xi talked for two hours — when you hear the White House say something to the effect of, listen, he’s been told if he supports Russia, there will be consequences, but not really laying out those consequences, which tends to be a pattern. What you think about that?
SASSE: Yeah. We need the administration to demonstrate why the globe should be looking to the U.S. and not to the Chinese Communist Party. The future of the world ten years out is either going to be more free-trade, human rights, global navigation of the seaways, transparent contracts, rule of law, condemnation of genocide like is happening to the Uighurs in Xinjiang —
SASSE: — or it’s going to be more of the globe drifting towards Chinese Communist Party leadership. And the only reason people would do that, third-party nations would do that, is not because they prefer Chinese communist values to American values, but because they worry that America is weak.
We need our commander-in-chief to be strong both in these conversations with Chairman Xi, but more approximately at this moment in arming the Ukrainians immediately and rapidly.
GALLAGHER: Speaking of drifting, we drifted off Ukraine for a minute. Democrats have pointed to former President Donald Trump’s handling of his relationship with President Zelenskyy, reportedly asking Zelenskyy for political help in exchange for aid. President Trump also reportedly ordered Mike Pence to not attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration back in 2019.
Does the former president deserve some criticism for what some say is a poor record on Ukraine and Russia?
SASSE: Well, the former president said that he had a perfect phone call. It was obviously not a perfect phone call. There was a lot wrong with it. But ultimately, the aid did get to Ukraine at that point.
So I think the broader point, rather than making this partisan, right versus left, is we should recognize three administrations in a row. We haven’t been urgent enough about telling the American people and the world the truth about who Vladimir Putin is.
Vladimir Putin is the kind of guy who bombs women and children, and we should be on the side of Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian freedom fighters. That’s true in the Biden administration, that should have been true in the last of administration, and that should have been true two administrations ago. We need to oppose Vladimir Putin more zealously, more rapidly, more clearly.
GALLAGHER: How compelling was President Zelenskyy in that address to Congress Friday?
SASSE: Very compelling. Obviously, Zelenskyy himself is not a stand-alone hero here. He’s a symbol of 40-plus million Ukrainian freedom fighters, but this is a — it’s a horrific thing to see all the human suffering and the tragedy, but it’s a pretty glorious thing to see human courage on a large stage.
We believe in America. It’s a part of our foundation creed that 7.8 billion people on the globe were created in God’s image with dignity. Government doesn’t give us our rights. Our rights come to us from God and government is just a shared tool to secure them.
And you see that spirit, that American Philadelphia 1787 spirit in Zelenskyy right now.
Somebody said when is the last time that Congress united, gave a president a standing ovation.
I want to move on if I can. Let’s go to Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson begin tomorrow.
Your colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Josh Hawley, said this of her time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Quoting here: Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.
The White House responded, quoting again: Overwhelming majority of Jackson’s cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. probation recommended.
Where do you stand on this, Senator?
SASSE: Yes. So Supreme Court justices get lifetime tenure and before that happens, there needs to be a vigorous, rigorous vetting of their records, and there are things in Judge Jackson’s record that are troubling. I’m glad we’re having the confirmation hearings starting tomorrow afternoon. I hope — tomorrow morning I guess.
I hope Judge Jackson will be very forthcoming and transparent, the American people and the United States Senate in our advice and consent responsibilities need to understand this, and there are things in this record that are troubling.
GALLAGHER: Yeah. I’m just curious, do you think there’s going to be the acrimony we have seen in some of these past nomination processes? Not Brett Kavanaugh, because that was over-the-top, but it seems to me like a lot of Republicans have kind of withheld their opinion in this because it really doesn’t change the balance of the court. Still 6-3, she’s a liberal.
Your final thoughts?
SASSE: The idiocracy version of Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court have been getting stupider and stupider since the Bork hearings in the 1980s. So the stuff the Democrats tried to do to Brett Kavanaugh and his wife and his kids were just unconscionably wicked. But it’s part of a pattern that’s been going on for 30 years.
I want us to vet Judge Jackson’s judicial philosophy.
SASSE: I don’t want us to attack her as a human. I want us to be having a debate about what her judicial philosophy is, because when you go on a court, if you get lifetime tenure, it’s because you don’t confuse yourself with a super legislator, and we need to know that judicial modesty there is there in that response.
GALLAGHER: And certainly, Judge Kavanaugh did not get due process which he deserved.
Senator, thank you for coming on. We appreciate it.
SASSE: Thank you, Trace.
GALLAGHER: Up next, we will bring in our Sunday group on the president’s tense discussions with Chinese President Xi and his upcoming trip to Europe, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I think we’re in a genuine struggle between autocracies and democracies and whether or not can be sustained.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: President Biden saying the world is at an inflection point as Russia bears down on Ukraine.
And it’s time now for our Sunday group: FOX News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich, FOX News Radio’s Guy Benson, FOX News political analyst Juan Williams, and Howard Kurtz, host of “Media Buzz”.
Thank you all for coming on. Look at this, everybody together, this is wonderful until they separate us again.
Jacqui, to you first. We talk a little bit about this with Senator Sasse, we know that President Biden and President Xi talked on the phone for two hours. The White House made it very clear afterwards that, you know, President Biden reinforced to President Xi that if they back Russia, there will be consequences.
But they don’t really lay out the consequences, which seems to be kind of a pattern. What are you hearing?
JACQUI HEINRICH, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUS CORRESPONDENT: They don’t lay out the consequences, they want to have this conversation directly with China and not through the media, but I find that to be interesting given that this administration’s position is the mere threat of a sanction should be the deterrent. We went through this with Putin and the Russian invasion.
If they want to deter China from working with Russia, you would think that they would spell out exactly what the sanctions are. On the other side, the Chinese foreign ministry had a strong reaction after the conversation with President Biden to the threat of sanctions. So, clearly, they got the message, saying that sanctions wouldn’t do anyone any good, it would hurt everybody.
So, clearly they got the message even if we are not hearing in the public exactly what might be impacted.
GALLAGHER: Yeah. Juan, this week, the president heads to Europe. He will meet with his allies over there. It is his first trip overseas since the war began. A lot on the agenda.
But what do you believe in your assessment that he needs to accomplish over there? What does he need to bring home?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it’s a message, and I think this is why they are getting together. The message has to be one of strength, Trace. And so far, Russia is in trouble because of the sanctions that Jacqui was talking about, because of arms to Ukraine, because the NATO alliance has maintained unity.
I mean, it even extends across to Asia in the face of China, as you were discussing, with Japan, Australia. I mean, it’s surprising, the amount of support and opposition to Russia. So now the question becomes a steady, strong hand coming — and message — coming from this meeting.
The world wants to hear how to help Ukraine. Senator Sasse was talking about this. Not to assume that somehow Ukraine is going to fall, but how can we help? What can we do now in terms of added support that will allow them to be better opposition to the Russians without falling into the arms here of generals who say a no-fly zone or U.S. getting — we don’t want World War III. I think no one wants that, but we want to know that nobody is simply standing by while the Ukrainians suffer.
GALLAGHER: Yeah. Howie, a very tough week at FOX News, hit very close to home, we lost two of our colleagues when there was an attack in Kyiv. We’re talking about our cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, journalist Sasha Kuvshynova, both were killed. Our Benjamin Hall was very badly wounded in that.
I want to play Secretary of State Secretary Antony Blinken and get your response on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Being a war correspondent is vital work. They make sure that the world knows what’s really happening when armies move in and bombs start falling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Howie, talk about what you have seen in the past few weeks that has struck you.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST OF “MEDIABUZZ”: The tragic killing of our courageous journalists and others is really a reminder, it’s not just a loss for us in the news business. It’s a reminder of how brutal Vladimir Putin is in conducting this war. You talk — I don’t want us to become numb to the fact that this is a guy whose forces, you know, bombed a maternity hospital, an art school, a theater where children are sheltering, shooting people on a bread line, abducting mayors.
They are work crimes, as President Biden says, and it’s the journalist who risked their lives to bring us the interviews with the refugees, with the victims, the pictures and the videos of civilian casualties. I mean, it’s hard to talk about.
And I think that if Putin succeeds in this and more journalists understandably, you know, withdraw from Ukraine, that will dim the spotlight on the atrocities that have turned the civilized world against Vladimir Putin.
GALLAGHER: You talk about the pictures and images and stuff, nobody brought that back better than Zach did, Howie. Thank you.
So, Guy, back to kind of political topics. Inflation, everything is up, right? Gas is up, food is up. For the first time in three years, interest rates are going to be going up.
Do the Democrats need to rethink their spending priorities here, Guy?
GUY BENSON, “THE GUY BENSON SHOW”: Well, of course they do. They always do, in my opinion, but especially these days. It doesn’t seem like that’s what they’re interested in though.
Maybe they back-burnered Build Back Better, but they were eager to pass that just a few months ago, knowing that inflation was growing steadily month after month. They wanted to throw $5 trillion of additional federal spending on top of that.
This is a problem for them politically. I understand that they’ve got their little talking point, Putin’s price hike. There is some truth to that.
But this is a pattern that has developed over more than a year and the American people I think reflected in polling — blame the president and the ruling party significantly for that issue.
GALLAGHER: I want to talk to about Saudi Arabia. But Build Back Better he says on the back burner or is it just kind of being rejiggered and rebuilt a little bit?
HEINRICH: Well, I think it’s definite on the back burner and I think the fact that you’ve got progressives in a Democratic caucus who are saying hey, some of these priorities that we really wanted to move on our — can you do something with executive orders there? Obviously Congress holds the purse strings, anything related to spending will have to go back to the Hill but it speaks to the frustration within a party that they have not been able to accomplish the objectives of the president laid out.
KURTZ: I think a flavor has gone out on the back burner. I think this thing is pretty much dead and you know, Biden put too many eggs in the political basket and he can’t get it and now the midterm messaging is modeled, although I do think he’s doing a solid job of rallying the Western alliance on Ukraine has helped him a little bit.
GALLAGHER: But there’s been kind of a lag in a lot of this, a lag on sanctions on Russia, right? A lag on whether these weapons go in. They are kind of a step behind.
Maybe I’m wrong on this, Juan, maybe, you know, there’s a time where you say look, we are going to do this and we are going to do it now. Zelenskyy complained for the first two weeks of the war, give us the sanctions before these things started and then the weapons, give them to us, quit delaying. Your thoughts?
WILLIAMS: I think with been pretty good about getting the sanctions in place and weapons. The thing to me is I don’t doubt that Russia is hurting right now. And I also have such respect for Zelenskyy. I mean, literally, he is a person at this moment, and he should be asking for everything.
WILLIAMS: But, for the United States, you know, we have to make decisions in our own interest, in NATO’s interest. We want to hold the alliance together. It’s not about bombast and chest pounding.
Right now, even on the domestic front, Americans know — you know, we were just talking with Guy, gas prices are like $4 a gallon. I would say about a dollar of that is really as a result of sanctions, as a result of the oil supply being limited, as a result of what’s going on with Putin. And polls show that Americans know this.
WILLIAMS: We know sacrifices that we’re making, and people agree with it.
GALLAGHER: Speaking of sacrifices, gas prices up. We’re going to play a sound byte there. But gas prices, Guy, I mean, they’re down a little bit from last week, but they’re up $0.75 from last month. It’s big, right? You see it every time you drive down the road you see gas prices. It affects voters’ minds. You see these store prices.
Are voters buying this whole concept that this is all Vladimir Putin’s fault?
GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM, “THE GUY BENSON SHOW” AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, to Juan’s point, there is some truth, there is some sacrifice based on what’s happening in Ukraine. That’s accurate to appoint. But it’s not the bigger picture. And polling that we’ve seen just in the last few weeks, really the last week or two, suggest when they asked the American people, do you support the president’s policies when it comes to the issues of inflation, he’s at 70 percent disapproval. So, people can hold thoughts in their mind at the same time. One, there is some truth to the Putin stuff, two, this is an issue that goes far beyond that crisis and there’s a party in charge of this entire town right now that has been in charge for more than a year and it’s only gotten worse.
GALLAGHER: Panel, thank you.
That’s it for the warm up around. We will see you a bit later in the hour.
Up next, as states, cities, and schools relax Covid restrictions, a new subvariant is causing a rebound in Europe. We’ll bring in the U.S. surgeon general to talk about how this could impact us here in the U.S.
GALLAGHER: While it was just over a month ago that the CDC announced new guidelines for how to mitigate Covid. For most of us it meant ditching masks. But in recent weeks, concerns over a new subvariant have many wondering if we are about to see another reversal.
With us here in Washington is the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Doctor, welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Thank you.
GALLAGHER: If I can, I want to kind of tick through some of the recent Covid develop. We’ll put these on the screen. We’re talking about U.S. cases, down 95 percent from January. But as of this week, the contagious new BA.2 subvariant is responsible for nearly a quarter of U.S. cases. We’re also seeing surges in Europe. And we’ve even seen a few lockdowns in China, Samoa, and elsewhere.
Do you expect a new wave in this country, Doctor?
MURTHY: Well, Trace, when we look at what’s happening around the world and over the last two years, we recognize that when cases increase in one part of the world, that often leads to increases in the other part of the world. And we should be prepared that, you know, Covid hasn’t gone away. There may be rises and falls in cases in the months ahead. But here’s the key, our goal is to keep people out of the hospital, it’s to save their lives, and we have more tools to do that than ever before. So our focus should be on preparation, not on panic. And if we get people these tools, vaccines, boosters, treatments, then we can actually get through waves that may come and go.
But I’ve got to tell you, Trace, the thing that concerns me right now is that as much work as we’ve done in the last two years to get the right tools, we’ve got to continue funding them and supporting them so they are available to people across the country. That’s what Congress moving to provide that funding is so cortical.
GALLAGHER: You make a great point about vaccines and boosters and medicine, because given that some Americans are vaccinated, some aren’t, some are boosted, some aren’t, some have had omicron, right, natural immunity, some haven’t. So it’s very fragmented. Plus, we now have the therapeutics that you and I were talking of talking about in the break.
How should Americans assess their own personal risk for Covid right now?
MURTHY: It’s a really good question and I can understand that sometimes that’s hard to do because there’s been so much information that’s come out over the last two years. But here’s what people need to know. Like, number one, we’ve seen time and time again the people at greatest risk are those in the older age category, people 65 and up. We also know that if you have other illnesses, let’s say uncontrolled diabetes, obesity, cardiac disease, heart — you know, lung disease, those all put you at increased risk of bad outcomes. But for all populations, getting vaccinated and boosted dramatically reduces your likelihood of ending up in the hospital and losing their life.
I’ll tell you, Trace, even during this last wave with omicron, when I talk to doctors and nurses in hospitals across the country, what they continue to say is that people we are seeing here who are most sick are unvaccinated.
So, bottom line, is those vaccinations and boosters work and the treatments that we now have in greater quantity than ever before, those also help to reduce our risk, but you’d better — you’d rather prevent an infection than get it and treat it. That’s why these vaccines and boosters are essential.
GALLAGHER: Two years in, Dr. Murthy, do we have a major comorbidity that we can point to as a leading cause, as a danger, that if people are going to get ready for other waves, that this is something that needs to be addressed because it puts you at lower odds?
MURTHY: Well, what we have seen is that, again, older age and illnesses like obesity are the ones that put you at higher risk. And we — sadly, we do have a lot of people in our country who are struggling with chronic illnesses, like obesity and heart disease have put them at higher risk, and so that means as a population we’ve got to be even more vigilant about taking steps to prevent Covid-19. Those include the vaccines and boosters, but we’ve also found that other tools, whether they are masks, whether they are using testing strategically, these can be helpful in limiting the spread of the virus.
GALLAGHER: Interesting, because twice this week the White House has been touched by Covid as it was trying to turn the page, right? First when Vice President Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, tested positive for the virus, and, second, when the Irish prime minister tested positive, turning plans for a meeting with the president on St. Patrick’s Day into a virtual event. The prime minister was seated next to Speaker Pelosi the night before, and that was — you see it right there — a maskless gala. The speaker says she’s not worried and is tested almost every day.
Is it your sense, Doctor, that Washington has moved on a bit?
MURTHY: Well, I don’t think we can afford to move on, but I do think that we can move forward with more confidence, that we can live our lives and not let Covid define our lives, because we do have, in fact, better tools that have proven to save our lives and keep us out of the hospital.
And that’s really the goal, Trace. Over the last two years, Covid defined our lives, it restricted us in profound ways. But because we have better tools, we have the power to move forward now and manage the virus and do so thoughtfully because, you know, we’ve been able to get our kids back to school, you know, over the last year. I mean more than 95 percent of kids are back in school. That’s a big win. I’m a dad of two small kids who, thankfully, are back in school. We’ve gotten people back to work. People are seeing their family and friends again. We need to keep doing these things. We now have the tools to do so safely.
GALLAGHER: You know what’s amazing to me is right before I left home I was thinking, you know, CVS is now saying, listen, we will give you free Covid medication. Come in. Ask for it. We’ll give you free Covid medication.
And my question is, you know, everybody’s got to be thinking, well, why would I get boosted, why am I going to get the vaccine when they’re going to give me free Covid medication if I do get it?
MURTHY: Well, I’m so glad you raised that, Trace, because this is something that, you know, over the years I’ve talked to patients about for a variety of illnesses, which is that if you can prevent an illness, it’s always better than getting the illness and treating it later.
We know that, you know, while the treatments work very, very well, there are consequences of getting sick. Some people may develop long Covid syndrome. Other people may have other complications that may prevent — and may lead them to infecting other people who may be more vulnerable.
So, yes, we have treatments, but we don’t want people to say, oh gosh, because I have treatments, I don’t need to get vaccinated. No, prevention, always better than cure. Ideally, you know, the good news is, we’ve got prevention and treatment. That’s what’s allowing us to move forward into this new phase with Covid.
GALLAGHER: I want it right from the top. are we calling it BA.2 or BA dot 2? Does that — I don’t quite know yet because I hear a lot of different versions of it? What do you think?
MURTHY: Well, internally, we’ve been saying BA.2. So, feel free to use that if you’d like.
GALLAGHER: BA.2 it is. So, BA.2 is coming along just as many Americans are adjusting to new CDC guidance, which includes looser masking restrictions.
What do you think, did we jump the gun, and is the CDC talking about potential updates as BA.2 potentially spreads?
MURTHY: That’s a good question. You know, in the — in public health responses like this you’ve got to make judgment calls. And I think the CDC took a very thoughtful approach to saying cases are starting to come down. We want to also focus on hospitalizations and deaths as the most important thing we prevent. So how do we adjust and make sure that we are putting a system forward that allows Americans to know when we can pull back on certain measures, like masking. And I think the recommendations they made were, in fact, quite appropriate.
But you’ll notice also those recommendations are responsive, which means that if the situation changes, if cases increase dramatically or in particular if our hospitalizations increase or our hospital capacity also gets reduced because of Covid, those are circumstances where they have recommended shifts. So, for example, if you’re in the green zone, which, you know, the — more than 90 percent of Americans live in an area right now which has a low number of cases and low hospitalizations, then you can go about your life much as before.
MURTHY: But as, you know, as you move into the next area of risk, that’s when people who are at higher risk should take more precautions, like wearing masks, that’s where people who live around higher risk people should take more precautions. And when we’re in the highest category, that’s when you want everybody, you know, wearing masks in indoor spaces to reduce spread.
GALLAGHER: And I hear what you’re saying about people needing to be flexible and the thing is just constantly changing on the ground, but as the virus evolves, is the administration worried about the fact that people are just worn out?
MURTHY: Well, listen, Trace, this is a very important point you’re raising. And, look, I understand just how tired and exhausted people are at the end of two years. This is — this virus has turned our lives upside down in ways that many of us never imagined. It’s impacted our kids. It’s impacted — many of us, including myself, have lost loved ones because of this virus. And people are understandably exhausted. So, you know, the administration understands that. The president certainly understands that. It’s something that has come up, you know, in our conversations.
MURTHY: He wants to make sure that we are understanding where people are, but that we’re also responding in a way that’s guided by public health, by science, because the bottom line is, what I think is going to help people the most is to make sure that there is a clear end to this pandemic, that we can manage it well, that they can get on with their lives. That is the key. And the good news is, because of their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of people around this country, because of the great work of scientists and others, we’ve got these tools, we can save lives, and we’ve saved over a million lives over the last year.
GALLAGHER: But you — you have —
MURTHY: We’ve just got to continue to fund this response, support it, and then we’ll be OK.
GALLAGHER: And very quickly, you have a lot of — there’s a lot of pushback, a lot of people saying the stuff is political, and it comes and goes at the politics come and go. And, you know, when you had the CDC director coming out saying, listen, we said to follow the science. We didn’t say the science was going to be exact.
Well, we sure thought that two years ago when you said follow the science. Everybody wanted to follow the science. And now we’re being told, well, it wasn’t exact, but yet if there were dissenting views on the science, you were called out. You are called names from a lot of media outlets.
MURTHY: Well, listen, what we have to do in this is understand that, number one, science evolves, right? We learn new data and that should inform our response. And that’s true, you know, with illnesses across the board.
But what’s also really important, Trace, is that we have the ability to have respectful, thoughtful dialogue with one another. I worry about the temperature rising in our dialogue about people being shut out in terms of their points of view being heard. We need to be able to hear all voices. We need to be able to respect one another. We need to be able to recognize that we may have to shift, you know, our path from time to time based on new data. It doesn’t mean that, you know, people were wrong before, it just means that we’ve got to learn as we go.
GALLAGHER: Because conformity is the enemy of science, as everybody is taught in science.
MURTHY: In science, yes.
GALLAGHER: I’ve got to move on to Dr. — we talked about this — Ashish Jha is now the new Covid czar for the administration. He’s the dean of Brown University. He’s an excellent communicator, as you have said.
There are some who are worried that because of the confusing guidance, you know, communication is great but there are other things that we need to prioritize over communication skills.
What’s your final thought on that?
MURTHY: Well, we have to continue to work on multiple fronts to get the country through this pandemic. We have to communicate well. We have to make sure that we are, you know, thinking ahead to creating better therapeutics, better vaccines in the future, even these pan-coronavirus vaccines that can treat multiple coronaviruses. And we’ve got to continue to make sure that we are getting these treatments and these vaccines out to people. So we’ve got to keep working on multiple fronts.
Communication is one of them. The good news is that over the last year we have built a number of processes, partnerships with community organizations, manufacturers and with states and local communities to be able to do these functions well.
So, we’re going to keep working on multiple fronts. Dr. Jha is going to be a key part, you know, of that effort. And, you know, I have faith that we can get through this. We just can’t — we’re in mile 18 of a marathon. We can’t quit. Because Covid’s not quitting, we can’t quit either. We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball.
GALLAGHER: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, it is great to have you on. It’s an honor, sir.
Dr. Murthy, thank you for joining us.
MURTHY: Thanks so much. Good to see you today as well.
GALLAGHER: Up next, we’ll bring back our Sunday panel to talk about the pushback from progressives to the president’s agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We still have work to do to address the pandemic, to fight the pandemic. That’s exactly why we need additional funding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki laying out what she says are the stakes if Congress doesn’t pass more Covid relief funding.
And we are back now with the panel.
Again, we can go around the room, Jacqui Heinrich, Howie Kurtz, Juan Williams, and my old friend Guy Benson, who I last saw in the gym in New York.
Guy, thank you for coming back on.
Jacqui, to you first.
I just talked to the surgeon general about this. The White House named the dean of Brown University, Ashish Jha, as the new coronavirus czar. Mandates across the country are being dropped. Is this a reset? And do they believe that the Dr. Jha is an asset?
JACQUI HEINRICH, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that it’s sort of a natural point in the pandemic to replace Jeff Zients. You’ve got, you know, omicron sort of waning, different states and localities dropping their mask restrictions in schools and in public places. You do have this new variant that he discussed that is posing a threat. There has been a different metric added to the CDC measure of when you should mask or not, to focus more on hospitalizations versus transmission. But I think, you know, replacing Zients with Dr. — with Ashish Jha, who’s a talented communicator, you know, is smart because they had a lot of criticism that we never heard from HHS Secretary Becerra, that Dr. Walensky had some missteps in her messaging and Jeff Zients, this wasn’t his wheelhouse. So I think it’s sort of a natural point to replace them.
GALLAGHER: You know, Guy, there’s a stalemate on Capitol Hill on Biden’s request for Covid funding because it’s supposed to pay for vaccines, treatment, et cetera, and there’s some concern that it’s going to be shifted to pay for consumer debt, things like that.
BENSON: Well, I think the White House talking point that we just played from Psaki is insulting on its face. Congress has approved $6 trillion in so-called Covid relief over the last two years.
BENSON: Including $2 trillion at the start of this administration. Where on earth did all of that money go? I mean you have the White House claiming, oh, we’re going to — we’re going to have to cut back on free testing and monoclonal antibodies won’t be as readily available because we’re just running out of money. That’s insane.
A lot of that huge bucket of cash has not been spent yet. Much of it has been allocated to things other than Covid relief, even though it was marketed as Covid relief. And to tell the American people that Congress needs to go spend even more money on this front I think is just preposterous.
You flood the market with money and there goes inflation.
Howie, a new “Wall Street Journal” poll shows the majority of Americans do not believe that President Biden will run for a second term. Put this on the screen there. Yes, 29 percent, no, 52 percent. I mean those are pretty large numbers.
He says he intends to run. What does he need to do? Does he need to commit emphatically right now, or step aside? What are your thoughts?
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST OF “MEDIABUZZ”: Look, I don’t think Joe Biden knows what he’s going to do, and I’m not surprised by that because he will be 82 years old and I think people understandably have doubts about him serving another four years.
It’s — unless there’s a significant decline in his health, I think his political health will be the key, because his political health is not good. I think some members of his own party may say, let’s give him the gold watch, get somebody younger and more vigorous, particularly if Donald Trump, who will be 78, is not running.
KURTZ: And now, of course, you also have the confirmation of the divorce between Donald Trump and Mike Pence, which is the least surprising thing ever. That marriage was never going to survive January 6th.
GALLAGHER: Yes. In fact, I want to talk to Guy about that and then I’ll get to you, Juan. I’m not skipping you over.
President Trump, because Howie brought it up, says that former VP Pence will not run, he will not be his running mate. And if we can put this on the screen, he says, I don’t think people would accept it. Might we see, Guy, a Pence/Trump debate in the primary?
BENSON: Yes, we might. I think there’s a greater chance if President Trump runs for president again then President Biden runs for re-election at this point, just in my judgment. And the idea that Pence would not be on the ticket again should Trump become the nominee is not exactly news. I mean they have had, as Howie says, a very public divorce. And Pence is making some noises recently that he is willing to more aggressively confronts the former president on some issues, including January the 6th.
WILLIAMS: You know, I think a lot of this as, you know, that polling that you cited, Trace, is about Republicans who are afraid that Biden will run because he’s the one guy that can beat Trump, proven it, and he’s the one guy thinking, given all the divisions within the Republican Party, that Americans would say, well, you know, he is a moderate. He’s not the far left.
WILLIAMS: And he’s made a point of that.
So, I think you have to factor that into that polling, because he has given no indication that he’s not running.
I want to set up a quick back-and-forth between you and Howie.
The Hunter Biden laptop. “The New York Times” comes out and says, hey, it’s legit after all. You know, Facebook was going to do a fact-check. Never did it. Twitter, never happened. And you think nobody has apologized at all for this. They were wrong across the media, Juan, and nobody has said, you know what, we screwed that up, it wasn’t Russian disinformation.
WILLIAMS: No, but I think there’s a larger context here, which is that what was this about? What does it prove? Nobody said it wasn’t true. That — what was said was that you can’t authenticate it. And then you had certain publications that said, we have authenticated it.
GALLAGHER: The analysts said it wasn’t true. The analysts, the intel analysts says — said they didn’t — couldn’t prove it. It sure looked like Russian disinformation.
WILLIAMS: Couldn’t — that’s — right, couldn’t prove it was the key point for organizations.
KURTZ: Juan, it is an absolute embarrassment that the way that the media downplayed or ignored or mocked or minimized this story, that “The New York Times” now says is under active federal investigation for possible tax violations or lobbying violations by the president’s son. And they’re still not covering it.
None of the other networks have touched this story. It doesn’t — you know, it doesn’t mean that Hunter Biden’s going to be indicted. It may or may not have the political fallout for his father. But when you look back at the way Facebook — Twitter, for example, said, well, you can’t even share this information then from “The New York Post.”
WILLIAMS: But Howie — Howie, this was in the middle of a heated political campaign intended to damage one candidate in the aftermath of Russian disinformation. I think we were all properly cautious.
KURTZ: It was censorship.
GALLAGHER: And we have to end if there.
Thank you, all. We’ll see you next Sunday.
Up next, a final word.
Stay with us.
GALLAGHER: And a final word this morning as the fighting continues in Ukraine.
The global Red Cross network is on the ground right now helping families impacted by the conflict. You can join Fox in our support of Red Cross efforts in Ukraine and surrounding countries as they help people with urgent and long-term needs. Donate now by scanning the QR code on your screen. It is a great organization. I’m telling you, every time we show up, and Jacqui can attest to this, we show up at some kind of a disaster where there is a tornado or a hurricane or a war, the Red Cross of the first people on the scene, and they provide comfort and sustenance and resources that people desperately need.
That’s it for today. I’m Trace Gallagher. I’ll see you this week, in for Bill Hemmer, on “AMERICA’S NEWSROOM” at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
Have a great weekend. We’ll see you next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
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