In 2015, Melinda Gates sat down with Bloomberg to discuss Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. Gates, the co-founder of philanthropic powerhouse Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, extolled Clinton’s record of championing gender equity — something that Gates herself has made her life’s work. “[Clinton] has always been there for women and girls,” she said.
But when asked if she would support Clinton in a presidential bid, Gates was quick to clarify that she and her husband, Bill, never endorse candidates “on either side of the aisle.” “We’re going to work with whoever is in office. We never endorse a candidate,” Gates said.
Fast forward to 2020, and Gates’ stance on backing candidates no longer seems immovable.
In an interview with The 19th’s CEO Emily Ramshaw, Gates said that she and her husband are “still discussing” if they will endorse a presidential candidate in this election cycle. “I’m not sure who we vote for is really going to be the thing that matters,” she said at The 19th Respresents Summit. “We’re not going to swing the election. It’s how we do our work with the leadership that’s there.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given billions of dollars to health care research and other initiatives over the years, and often works with Congress and presidential administrations to further policy. Throughout it all, they have maintained a bipartisan approach. “We worked so well with the Bush administration, we worked really well with the Obama administration. We will work with whoever the next administration is.”
Currently, their focus is on Congress: They are working with a bipartisan group on the Hill on the next coronavirus stimulus package. The foundation has worked “some” with the Trump administration over time, Gates said, and has also voiced their “disappointment and displeasure.” That sentiment has also been expressed publicly. In May, Gates gave the president’s response to the coronavirus “a D-minus.”
Gates believes that the U.S. response to the pandemic is still lacking. “I look at the numbers. I look at the amount of disease, of COVID, and I look at the deaths in the United States,” she said during The 19th’s summit. “You hold those numbers up compared to Europe, or some of the Asian countries or several others, and you can tell we are not doing well.”
And for Gates, that failure is due to a lack of coordinated response. “Our leadership is lacking, and that’s why we’re seeing so much death in the United States,” she said. “And that’s really disappointing.”
Since February, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $300 million to coronavirus research. And there is a glimmer of hope. Gates, pointing to several vaccine trials that have advanced to late stages, believes there could be a vaccine in the first half of 2021. “It takes some time, but it looks hopeful for early next year,” she said.
Disclosure: Melinda Gates has been a financial supporter of The 19th. Find a full list of our donors here.