People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (5/29 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (5/29 Update)

This week, the United States hit the sobering milestone of 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19. Although the actual toll is likely higher than the recorded numbers, we are devastated by the lives cut short by the pandemic. The impact is especially pronounced among Black American and Latinx people, who are almost three times as likely to know someone who has died due to the coronavirus than white Americans.

At least one-third of the 100,000 deaths could have been avoided had Donald Trump mandated social distancing measures just a week earlier to curb the pandemic’s spread. His actions – and inaction – have had dire health and economic consequences for people nationwide during this public health crisis. Trump has continued to lie and deflect responsibility in a desperate attempt to hold onto his office in the November election.

  • Trump posted multiple tweets on May 26 to attack voting by mail, including his claim that California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom is mailing ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” Once again, he tried to use the public health crisis to stoke anti-immigrant fervor among his base. And the assertion he made is incorrect. Trump’s statements were so inaccurate that, for the first time ever, Twitter appended links below two of his posts encouraging readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.” In retaliation, on May 28 Trump signed an executive order designed to limit protections for social media sites – even though, if it makes it through the courts, the order could actually force the sites to be harsher about policing inaccuracies in order to shield themselves from liability.
  • Continuing his attacks on science, Trump said in a May 24 interview that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine received “rave reviews.” He also dismissed the Columbia University report that connected the growing death rate in the U.S. to the late date that social distancing measures were implemented by calling it a partisan attack from a “liberal, disgraceful institution.” Shortly after this blog was updated last week, another well-respected scientific journal published a report echoing and expanding upon Columbia’s findings – which Trump also rejected.
  • As localities implement reopening guidelines, Trump has continued to flout public health and safety recommendations:
    • On May 22, he declared churches to be “essential” and called on them to reopen immediately, irrespective of local social distancing regulations, possibly because his campaign is worried about his polling numbers among white religious voters.
    • Then, on May 25, Trump said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, needed to “guarantee” full capacity at the Republican National Convention or he would withdraw it. He made this threat as the county where the convention is scheduled to take place is experiencing a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
  • Trump continues to defy the safety recommendations of public health experts by refusing to wear a face mask in public. On May 21, he briefly wore one during a private tour of Ford Motors, but refused to do so publicly, saying he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” Then on May 28, he claimed that there are “many different viewpoints” on wearing a mask, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying otherwise. Even some Republican officials have criticized Trump for ignoring the protective protocol recommended by federal health experts.
  • Trump has claimed that his push to reopen states’ economies is designed to give workers their jobs back. But data on unemployment in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, shows a steady rate of unemployment insurance claims a month after its reopening, with almost two out of every five Georgians filing for unemployment since mid-March. The U.S. hit another milestone this week, with over 40 million Americans having filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. The White House is so concerned about the negative coverage Trump is receiving because of these numbers that they are refusing to release its traditional economic projections for the summer.
  • During a weekend intended to commemorate the sacrifices of those who have died in war, and as the death toll in the U.S. approached 100,000 lives lost to COVID-19, Trump showed a complete disregard for human life, alternately insulting Nancy Pelosi, Stacey Abrams, and other perceived enemies, promoting conspiracy theories, and playing golf.

Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham claimed that Trump’s “pro-life” stance guided his coronavirus response. But Trump’s disregard for mourning the dead or taking the pandemic seriously demonstrates just how wrong Graham’s statement is. All of Trump’s lies and missteps point to one truth: He cares about his image and his grip on power more than he cares about American lives. It’s our duty to work as hard as we can to vote him out of office this November. This week, in the shadow of the pandemic’s toll, it’s clearer than ever that this election is a fight for our lives.