MSNBC host claims Trump’s attack on opioid epidemic is racist (video)

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MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin held a discussion with NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres on Friday about the Trump administration’s vow to tackle the nationwide opioid crisis as a national emergency. Of course, Melvin didn’t see the overall benefit of combating the epidemic without making the topic based on race.

In the segment, Melvin says the following:

“And, again, this is truly a national tragedy. But, you know, two decades ago in this country, you had lots of folks who look like me who were dying in D.C. and Chicago and L.A. in greater numbers than what we’re seeing right now as a result of the crack cocaine epidemic that plagued this country. It seems as if we are treating this particular drug crisis differently than we treated that one. Why?”

Torres replied: “And I think we are treating it differently, and I think it’s because of where it’s hitting and who it’s hitting….And the big thing you have to remember is an overdose and an overdose death is an overdose and an overdose death, regardless of what it’s from, what kind of drug.”

The doctor stated to Melvin that with crack cocaine “a lot of effort was placed into trying to get that under control through legislation means, through law enforcement, punitive action type things, and treatment. This one’s focusing more on treatment.”

Melvin then followed up: “Is that because – and I don’t want to put you on the spot, as I put you on the spot – is that because a lot of the folks who are dying as a result of opioid overdoses in this country don’t look like me?”

Torres further commented on the matter of Melvin’s question:

“And it could be in part because of the fact that, you know, people that die from overdoses, a lot of people look at that, and say, “Well, you know, they started that on their own, and did it themselves.” Whereas with this one they’re saying, “Well, it was a legal method they started with, and that legal method turned into this drug problem.” So it could be part of the issue.”

According to a White House pool report from Thursday, President Trump is drafting paperwork to declare the opioid epidemic in the U.S. a national emergency. Trump made the announcement during an appearance outside his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, where he is on a 17-day working vacation:

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. We’re going to draw it up, and we’re going to make it a national emergency.

“It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he was receiving a private briefing on the crisis with administration officials and advisers. In brief comments before that meeting, Trump vowed an intense effort on opioids and related drugs. He said he would work with law enforcement inside and outside of the country against “drug dealers that poison our communities.”

Contrary to Trump’s statements on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price indicated that the administration would not declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency after the briefing, saying the White House already is empowered with the resources to help address the problem. Price indicated other national emergencies for public health have been focused on a “time-limited problem, either an infectious disease or a specific threat to public health.”

A transcript of the full exchange between Melvin and Torres can be viewed below:

CRAIG MELVIN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you the same question I asked a couple days ago. And, again, this is truly a national tragedy. But, you know, two decades ago in this country, you had lots of folks who look like me who were dying in D.C. and Chicago and L.A. in greater numbers than what we’re seeing right now as a result of the crack cocaine epidemic that plagued this country. It seems as if we are treating this particular drug crisis differently than we treated that one. Why?

DR. JOHN TORRES: And I think we are treating it differently, and I think it’s because of where it’s hitting and who it’s hitting. Because it can hit anyone, anywhere, anytime. That one could, too. And the big thing you have to remember is an overdose and an overdose death is an overdose and an overdose death, regardless of what it’s from, what kind of drug. And so a lot of effort was placed into trying to get that under control through legislation means, through –  

MELVIN: Law enforcement.

TORRES: Law enforcement, punitive action type things, and treatment. This one’s focusing more on treatment. And so there are a lot of parallels between the two and there are a few differences.

MELVIN: Is that because – and I don’t want to put you on the spot, as I put you on the spot – is that because a lot of the folks who are dying as a result of opioid overdoses in this country don’t look like me?

TORRES: And it could be in part because of the fact that, you know, people that die from overdoses, a lot of people look at that, and say, “Well, you know, they started that on their own, and did it themselves.” Whereas with this one they’re saying, “Well, it was a legal method they started with, and that legal method turned into this drug problem.” So it could be part of the issue.

MELVIN: Dr. John Torres, answering the tough questions for us on this Friday. Thank you, sir.

TORRES: You bet.

A video of the exchange between Melvin and Torres can be viewed below:

 

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