The Republican executive of a company that manufactures medical masks said Tuesday that he will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, due to President Donald Trump’s “politicized” response to the coronavirus crisis.
Mike Bowen ― executive vice president of Texas-based Prestige Ameritech, the largest producer of N95 masks and respirators in the U.S. ― said in a statement to HuffPost that Trump’s handling of the pandemic has “greatly increased death and suffering in America.”
“President Trump downplayed the virus, missed opportunities, and wasted precious time,” Bowen said in his statement. “He has also politicized the wearing of masks. ... The man has politicized a life-saving medical device and has teased people for wearing it!”
“Mr. Trump is a self-proclaimed ‘genius’ who prefers his own magical thinking to the advice of experts and scientists,” Bowen continued, adding: “The next time that there is a scientifically minded Republican presidential candidate, I will vote for her or him. This time, however, there is only one scientifically minded person in the race. That person is Joe Biden.”
Bowen, who describes himself as a lifelong Republican, testified before Congress in May that the country’s dependence on foreign masks had been a national security risk for several years.
During that same hearing, Dr. Rick Bright, the former director of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), testified that Bowen had warned federal officials as early as January that the country faced a mask shortage.
Bright served as director of BARDA for nearly four years until, in his words, he was ousted in April for objecting to pressure from Trump administration officials who wanted the agency to invest in unproven COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.
“I’ll never forget the emails I received from Mike Bowen indicating that our mask supply, our N95 respirator supply, was completely decimated,” Bright testified. “And he said, ‘We’re in deep shit. The world is. And we need to act.’ ... We were already behind the ball.”
Bowen appears in the newly released documentary “Totally Under Control,” which examines the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
“Around 2005, all of the major mask makers left the country,” Bowen says in the film. “It put the U.S. mask supply in the hands of foreign control and could be subject to diversion during the pandemic. And that’s what I’ve been warning about for years.”
He added: “I voted for Donald Trump. I thought, you know, if I contact enough people in the administration somebody ― one of these people ― is going to look at this and say, ‘Hey, this is a problem. Maybe we ought to call this guy.’ And no, I couldn’t get any ― I didn’t get any response there.”
As of Wednesday, the U.S. continued to lead the world in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 8.2 million cases and at least 221,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.