The doctor at the center of a New York Times story alleging Jared Kushner bungled the administration’s attempts to procure medical supplies is pushing back on the negative tone of the piece, indicating that the Times’s reporting ‘did not fully reflect my experience.’
Dr Jeffrey Hendricks is quoted in a Times article from May 5 expressing frustration with Kushner’s assembled team of coronavirus volunteers, whose job it was to identify potential sources of medical equipment. ‘When I offered them viable leads at viable prices from an approved vendor, they kept passing me down the line and made terrible deals instead,’ Hendricks said of dealing with the volunteer team, adding that getting responses at all was difficult.
Hendricks’s story was wrapped into the Times’s larger piece about the alleged failure of the volunteer team to secure deals for supplies, but he now says in a statement provided to The Spectator that the paper did not adequately represent his experience working with the administration. Hendricks, while acknowledging some issues, praises the administration’s overall ‘incredible efforts’ and describes Kushner’s volunteer team as ‘kind’ and ‘responsive’:
‘I read the article in the New York Times. There were some pieces that were true and some things that did not fully reflect my experience. To be fair to the volunteers, Rachel Baitel, and others, I should clarify my experience. Most importantly, we all need to recognize we are in an unprecedented situation with a global health crisis of almost incomprehensible magnitude. My experience with the volunteers was that they were kind, responsive, and tried to assist. I believe everybody is trying to manage the best way possible and with good intentions. There will be efforts that work, and efforts that are well intended, but do not. We can assess this going forward and make new recommendations accordingly. I believe that this administration is putting forth incredible efforts to assist our health care providers and our citizens. Of course, there will be frustrating aspects of it along the way, and yes, I experienced some of this. I expressed my frustration with slow communication that seemed to have stopped altogether, but also acknowledged the vetting process could take some time. Despite what at times felt like a bureaucratic process I finally received authorization for a site inspection on April 29, 2020, although this has not taken place as of yet.’
A senior administration official told the The Spectator that it was also inaccurate for the Times to characterize the volunteer team as completely inexperienced. While these individuals did not always have direct experience with governmental procedure or medical supplies, their jobs in the private sector were focused on procuring resources, which made them attractive candidates to help the administration identify leads for getting supplies. The official also noted the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, meaning few individuals would have prior experience obtaining medical supplies for the entire country in a crisis situation.
Using volunteers during the crisis is by no means exclusive to the Trump administration. California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom, for example, has a team of 80 junior volunteers from investment firms, the same background of the volunteers fielded by Kushner, while Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan is using private sector advisers to acquire PPE. The White House’s volunteer team has been responsible for leading a negotiation with 3M to acquire over 160 million masks, helping develop the AirBridge concept, and working with the Department of Defense to secure contracts with 11 companies for 150,000 ventilators over a course of days, and more.