Iconic actor Dennis Quaid — who's made star turns in movies such as "The Right Stuff," "The Big Easy," "The Rookie," and more recently in the Christian film, "I Can Only Imagine" — sat down for an interview with the Daily Beast's senior entertainment editor Marlow Stern, who couldn't wait to hear Quaid's take on how President Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus crisis.
"You've raised quite a bit of money for hospitals and are a big patient-safety advocate, so I'm curious how you feel the president and federal government are handling the current pandemic?" Stern asked Quaid. "It does look like hospitals are criminally undersupplied right now."
Quaid offered a decidedly atypical Hollywood answer:
Well, to tell you the truth, I think the president is handling it in a good way. We see him on television every day, he's involved, and the travel ban early on was a great idea — which he did in spite of protest about that. But I don't want to get into the protest. I'm an independent — I've voted both ways throughout my life, swinging like a pendulum toward what the country needed at the time — and I think this might be an opportunity for the country to come together again. World War II did that for that generation, and this might be our defining moment of a generation. It's going to be a different world, for sure, when all this is over, and hopefully we can all be a bit more unified.
Trying to set Quaid straight
The interviewer — apparently feeling as though it was his duty to set Quaid straight — brought up February's medical supply shipments to China and said the administration knew "full well that this pandemic was about to hit our shores" at the time.
Was this an interview or a debate? Quaid was willing to throw down some more:
We were trying to defeat the virus at its source at that time, and as I heard yesterday, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few other people are taking planes over there and shipping a lot of it back. The states are also responsible for having stockpiles of their own, according to their own needs. You know, New York, I really feel for those people and I think they're doing their best to get them everything they need. We'll figure that all out when it's over, as far as whether anybody died because they couldn't get a ventilator in a hospital. I haven't heard reports about that, have you?
But Marlow just couldn't let go:
Yeah. There have been reports about people dying because there aren't enough ventilators in New York, and they've been practicing "ventilator-sharing" where they're putting two people on a single ventilator because they're short on them. And certain states, like Florida, are getting what they ask for as far as supplies go, while New York, which is the epicenter, isn't receiving anywhere near what they've asked for, which is puzzling on a number of levels.
Quaid shot back:
Well, New York had a chance to buy thousands of ventilators at a very good price like two years ago, but I don't want to get into the finger-pointing, because [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo is doing a great job out there working for the people of his state. And I think Trump, no matter what anybody thinks of him, is doing a good job at trying to get these states — and all of the American people — what they need, and also trying to hold our economy together and be prepared for when this is all over. I don't want to get into petty arguments about it. There's a lot of talk about how South Korea handled the crisis, and the thing about South Korea is they're still in a state of war with North Korea and are always on the alert for all kinds of threats — nuclear threats, biological threats — so I would imagine that had something to do with how quickly they were able to respond to it.
After the interviewer insisted the Trump administration failed to take swift action against the coronavirus, Quaid hit right back: "Oh, I think that we did too though. As soon as we found out what the threat was … China wasn't really revealing to the rest of the world what was going on. Five million people I heard had fled the Wuhan province before they had quarantined it and were all over the world and allowed to come to this country. There was no warning whatsoever. The virus probably started back in November, and we didn't learn about it until January."
Marlow agreed China hasn't been truthful and transparent about the coronavirus, but he just couldn't help trying to hammer home his points to Quaid, saying Trump acted way too late.
At that point, Quaid signaled that he'd had enough and wasn't about to back down:
But Trump did do the travel ban to China, and then to Europe very quickly afterward, and he was castigated by a lot of members of Congress who were just getting out of the impeachment, that it was racist what he was doing. It's a good thing we had that travel ban at the time. You know, the world has never experienced this, and I don't think it's a time to be political. I think it's just time to get behind our government and have everybody do what they can. If you want to point blame after, that's another story, but right now I think we all just really need to come together on this. To get back to your original question, I do appreciate that Trump is giving the briefings and on television every day giving out the information, and I think they have great people handling it. Just one more thing outside of that: Despite presidents, Congress, and political parties, this is the United States of America, and we're a very adaptable people in situations like this, and I think we're all going to get through it. My heart goes out to everyone.
Toward the end of the interview, Quaid's starring role in an upcoming biopic about former President Ronald Reagan was brought up — and Quaid was effusive in his praise, calling Reagan "my favorite president in my lifetime. He was on a par with FDR and Lincoln too, I think. He really transformed our country."
Marlow, as you might expect, wasn't taking that lying down and found room to criticize another conservative head of state, telling Quaid that Reagan didn't handle the 1980s AIDS crisis "well at all."
"You're right about that," the actor replied. "I think when it first came out, the whole country in general really considered that to be a 'gay disease' and handled it badly from the start. You know in some way, I think we all get the president we deserve at the time. The presidency reflects society."
With that, the interviewer offered a parting-shot question: "So what did we do to deserve Trump?"
A laughing Quaid was too smart to get into another debate: "Well, I don't think we can answer that until after the fact — until we have a little hindsight!"