The acting White House chief of staff says US media is stoking a coronavirus panic because they hope it will take down President Donald Trump.
“The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the president,” Mick Mulvaney said.
Speaking to a group of conservatives on Friday, he added people should ignore the media in order to calm the markets.
Global markets have continued to fall as the virus infects over 50 countries.
There have been 82,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year. All but 3,664 cases and 57 of the deaths have been reported in China.
“We took extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago,” Mr Mulvaney said, referring to the Trump administration order to close the border to foreign travelers coming from China, where the virus originated. The move was widely covered in the media at the time.
“Why didn’t we hear about it? What was going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment. And that’s all the press wanted to talk about,” he told a gathering of conservatives outside Washington on Friday.
He said the press was preoccupied by the impeachment of Mr Trump – who was eventually acquitted – because of their belief that “it would bring down the president”.
That same belief in Mr Trump’s demise has fuelled coverage of the disease, Mr Mulvaney said.