Former Vice President Joe Biden, currently the Democratic front-runner in the 2020 presidential race, joined ABC's "The View" on Tuesday, urging Americans and the Trump administration to listen to the health experts leading the novel coronavirus response -- criticizing the president in the process.
"Listen to the scientists. Listen to the doctors. Listen to what they have to say," Biden told the hosts. "I would respectfully suggest that you should have Dr. [Anthony] Fauci on a lot more than the president -- or anyone who's not an expert like Fauci -- laying out exactly what's going on."
When prompted, Biden pushed back on President Donald Trump's argument that "the cure cannot be worse ... than the problem." He said the focus of the response has to remain on flattening "the curve" and taking steps to curb the spread of the virus.
"We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what," he said. "No matter what. We know what has to be done."
Biden also took issue with recent comments made by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, focused specifically on fixing the economy and sending Americans back to work amid the crisis.
"I don't agree with the notion that somehow it's okay to let the -- let people die and I'm not sure that would happen," Biden told the hosts. "I heard earlier comments on your show, to make sure the economy is there for our kids. The whole world is suffering from this. We have the strongest, most vital, most vibrant economy in the world. We can bounce back, but we need workers to bounce back."
He added that his main goal is not to "criticize" Trump’s response to the crisis, saying he does not blame him for the outbreak, but added that it is important to call out what he believes are mistruths coming from the White House.
"I think there's truth to both sides. That's why, if you notice what I've been doing, I've not been criticizing the president but I've been pointing out where there's disagreement as to how to proceed," Biden said, adding "The coronavirus is not his fault, but the lack of speed with which to respond to it -- it has to move much faster ... as I pointed out, this is not about Democrat or Republican."
Biden also weighed in on the over $1 trillion stimulus package for those impacted by COVID-19 that is currently being negotiated on the Hill. He said it is "pretty good," and feels both sides are close to an agreement.
"The House and the Senate as of 10 minutes before ... this program, it looks like they're pretty close to a deal. It's not everything that I would want, nor that I think the Democrats want, but it's pretty good," he said. "It has about $1,200 direct checks or payments for folks and ... $500 per child."
He added, "We should be focusing on keeping people on the payroll."
Biden’s appearance on the show marks his first on-screen interview since the coronavirus pandemic put a pause on all in-person campaigning -- moving the 2020 race largely to the virtual world.
Asked about his only remaining rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden said he is not urging him to exit the race -- but did call for unity as the party heads towards a general election matchup with Trump.
"I have not had any personal conversations with him. My staff and his staff have had discussions. I think it's up to Bernie," he said.
"Bernie and I have always gotten along well,” he continued, adding that he is listening to the Vermont senator’s supporters and has spoken with other leading liberals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren about how to craft a policy platform that appeals to the entire party.
Biden, who committed to pick a female running mate during the last presidential campaign, acknowledged that while he has not secured the nomination, he has begun to think about who he would want to serve as his second in command.
"There is a short list, meaning somewhere between -- there's about 12-15 women who I think would be qualified to be president tomorrow, but I think we're going to narrow the list down to about 11. We're going to start vetting soon,” Biden said, but did not give specific names that he felt would "raise expectations."
Biden cited his own relationship with former President Barack Obama as an example of the type of partner he would want in the White House with him, saying he has spoken to Obama about his vice presidential pick.
"The lawyers are putting together what will be the nature of the vetting process. It's got to be thorough, which it should be, and I'm, you know, we're looking at when to start sooner than later,” Biden said.
The sudden shift to online campaigning created challenges for Biden’s team, who struggled with initial efforts at virtual events. He's also faced criticism for being largely absent from the public’s view for the better part of last week, as they "desperately" worked to scale up the infrastructure needed to stay in regular contact with voters and reporters.
Biden, joined "The View" remotely from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where his campaign recently constructed what he described as a television studio out of a recreation room, and said that while he is confined to his home, he is staying active.
"I start the morning off with an hour and a half briefing with my medical experts on the health circumstances. They send me all these graphs and lay out exactly what the status of things are," Biden said. "And then I have an hour and a half meeting with my economic team, former members of the administration and others who are laying out what they think is about to happen and how we should be dealing with it. I spend time on the phone with our congressional leaders."
The former vice president, who has built a potentially insurmountable delegate lead over Sanders, has been regularly excoriating the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
During his remarks on Monday, Biden scolded the president for his contentious exchanges with reporters in the White House briefing room, urging him to level with the American people on what steps the government is taking to stem the outbreak.
"These briefings are an important opportunity to inform and reassure the American public," Biden said during his roughly 15-minute address. "They're not a place for political attacks, or to lash out at the press. They're about the American people."
But as he looks to cast himself in a leadership role opposite Trump ahead of a likely general election matchup, Biden still has to contend with both Sanders’ candidacy and a primary calendar that has largely put voting on hold for the foreseeable future.
As of Tuesday, at least 10 states have either postponed their nominating contests or have in some form changed the voting process.