Ex-New York Police Commissioner Pardoned by Trump Takes Flak for Claiming Coronavirus Response Is 'Hysteria' to 'Destroy' President's Record

A former New York police commissioner has come under fire for suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has been overblown in an effort to undermine President Donald Trump.

Bernard Kerik—who was convicted of a range of offenses including tax fraud, but was pardoned by Trump last month—wrote on Twitter Sunday that concerns over the spread of coronavirus had turned into "hysteria" which he claimed had been "created to destabilize the country, and destroy the unparalleled and historic economic successes" of the Trump administration.

His remarks were quickly condemned by a variety of users, among them Democratic California Rep. Ted Lieu, who pointed to the global disruption caused by the virus noting the issue is far bigger than U.S. politics.

Replying to Kerik's tweet, Lieu wrote: "This is not about @realDonaldTrump. This is about lives. If you don't understand that, you are part of a cult."

Lieu also wrote, "China went into lockdown well before US media focused on #COVIDー19. Italy and Spain are in lockdown because their hospitals are being overwhelmed, not because of media hype." In another post, he argued, "If you believe Italy and Spain went into lockdown to get Trump, then yes you are part of a cult."

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat was among those who also criticized Kerik. She wrote, "You should know better than to be so irresponsible in a pandemic."

Author Kurt Eichenwald added, "Im sure in early days of AIDS you also blew it off. Thats what happens when people who don't understand epidemiology & epidemics talk: they create a record of their foolishness."

Kerik shared a misleading coronavirus death toll to support his assertion, noting that 2,360 people died from January to February and comparing that to higher counts for flu, HIV/AIDS and other causes of death.

There have been almost 170,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 6,500 people have died and more than 77,000 people have recovered.

Many Western nations—including the U.S.—are believed to be only in the early stages of the outbreak. Several nations have introduced stringent restrictions on public gatherings and the day-to-day lives of citizens to try and stem the spread of the disease.

In the U.S., the Trump administration has been criticized for a lacklustre initial response and its politicization of the pandemic. The president first dismissed the illness as a Democratic "hoax" and has since sought to dodge any responsibility for its spread, repeatedly trying to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 strain.

The president has now declared a national emergency and frozen flights from European nations, though Americans are still able to travel freely.

The travel ban sparked confusion and chaos at European and American airports as citizens tried to return home for fear of being stranded in Europe, prompting further criticism of the administration's handling of the situation.

Coronavirus, Donald Trump, Ted Lieu, hysteria, twitter
This file photo shows a coronavirus notice posted in the window of St. John Nepomucene Church in New York City on March 15, 2020. Cindy Ord/Getty Images/Getty