AP Photo/Alex Brandon Jared Kushner
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jared Kushner joined the White House daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, and immediately garnered criticism.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law to President Donald Trump, sparked criticism at his first appearance in a White House daily coronavirus briefing Thursday. Appointed as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s point person overseeing the distribution of emergency medical supplies, he seemed to echo the president’s sentiment that states should take responsibility for their own leadership and view the federal government as simply a backup.

“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use,” he said. “Don’t ask us for things when you don’t know what you have in your own state, just because you’re scared,” he directed toward governors.

Backlash was immediate.

“Why is Jared Kushner in charge of anything?” tweeted CNN’s Shanlon Wu.

“Is this a joke????” tweeted Sunny Hostin, a host on “The View.” 

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The blunder revived conversation that the 39-year-old former real estate developer had no experience in government before Trump’s election in 2016. He has operated in many roles within the administration since then, including input on the Middle East strategy, with mixed results. As senior advisor to the president, Kushner has his ear officially and personally, operating from an almost untouchable position within the White House. Kushner can issue decisions without going to the president, such as when he gave the go-ahead to announce the use of wartime powers to produce vital medical equipment. But his level of inexperience and penchant for not sticking to chain of command protocols has many saying he’s making a dysfunctional situation worse.

He joined the coronavirus response efforts in mid-March, gathering a team of private industry heads whose practices clash with veteran officials. The team was supposed to expedite the establishment of drive-through testing sites but its unclear hierarchy and scope of authority has muddled the process for the official committee. Some of Kushner’s allies have used private emails and free public platforms to arrange meetings and send delicate communications, and duplicated efforts due to crossed signals has been a recurring issue.

“There is some kind of communications failure between FEMA and the White House,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee. “FEMA was brought into the response to provide logistics support and the White House should let them do their work. There is no reason for Jared or any other inexperienced person to be getting in the way of that.”