People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/16 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/16 Update)

As recently as October 12, polls continue to indicate that the majority of Americans oppose confirming any Supreme Court nominee before the next president takes office. But that didn’t stop Senate Republicans from holding confirmation hearings this week for Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, who repeatedly refused to answer questions about her dangerous record on the Affordable Care Act during the hearings.

For his part, Trump was largely quiet about Barrett’s confirmation hearings, focusing instead on his reelection efforts, which include spreading disinformation about voting, election security, and COVID-19.

The strong resurgence of the coronavirus in recent weeks has culminated in more than 60,000 new cases daily, the highest it’s been since mid-August. And Trump’s reckless behavior and ongoing attacks on scientific experts continue to put our lives at risk.

  • Less than a week after leaving Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, Trump resumed his campaign’s in-person events. He gave a speech from a White House balcony to his supporters on the South Lawn on October 10, followed by campaign rallies in Florida on October 12; Nevada and Pennsylvania on October 13; Iowa on October 14, and Pennsylvania on October 15. All but one of those events were held before doctors confirmed on October 14 that Trump is no longer likely to be “shedding infectious virus particles.”
    • During his October 10 speech, Trump falsely insisted yet again that the coronavirus pandemic is “going to disappear.” The Washington Post noted in its coverage that the first time he lied about this was back in February, before over 213,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.
    • At the rally on October 12 in Florida, a hoarse Trump told the crowd that he was immune to the coronavirus following his recovery and bragged that he felt so “powerful” that he wanted to “kiss” everyone.
    • In Pennsylvania on October 13, Trump repeated his COVID-19 immunity claims, this time also assuring the crowd that anyone among them that had been infected were also immune.
  • Most people who attended the Trump campaign’s in-person events did not wear masks or practice social distancing, despite the president’s recent illness.
  • On October 15, Trump held an in-person forum on NBC in Miami, Florida after having refused to hold a virtual presidential debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden. During the hourlong question-and-answer session, Trump refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory, avoided answering questions about when his last negative test for coronavirus was prior to testing positive within days after the last presidential debate, and lied that 85 percent of people who wear masks contract COVID-19.
  • In an interview with Fox News on October 11, Trump claimed that his coronavirus treatments were “pretty routine,” even though most Americans do not have access to such aggressive and experimental medicine. He also asserted that he was “immune” and “totally free of spreading” the virus. There is no evidence to support the theory that those who have already contracted the virus are immune from reinfection, and Twitter labeled posts about the interview as “misinformation” that contradicted its coronavirus information regulations. In fact, on October 13, news broke that a 25-year-old Nevada man was reinfected with the disease.
  • The White House continued to embrace the herd immunity theory, despite the fact that scientific experts have cautioned that the approach is a “dangerous fallacy.” On October 14, the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that employing herd immunity as a strategy is “scientifically and ethically problematic” and has “never in the history of public health” been used “for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, called relying on herd immunity “total nonsense.”
  • Trump’s attacks on Fauci continued this week:
    • A recent Trump campaign ad used a clip of a Fauci interview from March to present his words as if he were praising Trump’s response to the coronavirus. On October 11, Fauci asked that the clip be removed from the ad and made it clear that his quote was taken out of context. In an interview on October 12, he emphasized his history of nonpartisanship during his career, saying, “In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate.”
    • That same day, ABC political news correspondent Jon Karl reported that the White House refused to allow Fauci – or any other coronavirus task force medical experts – to appear on the news show he co-hosts.
    • On October 12, after Fauci cautioned that Trump was “asking for trouble” by resuming his in-person rallies, Trump tweeted that Fauci’s “pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications.”
  • On October 9, The New York Times reported that the White House had blocked a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States. The order had even been approved by Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex M. Azar II, before the White House’s coronavirus task force struck it down.
  • New documents obtained by The New York Times revealed that Trump administration officials briefed top Republican donors back in February about the potential for the pandemic to disrupt the American stock market, likely prompting the record-breaking sell-off that followed.

Trump’s dogged insistence that coronavirus is “disappearing” becomes increasingly dangerous the longer the pandemic rages on uncontrolled. This week, more than 20 states have hit a new high in their week-long case count average, and hospitalizations are up to 34,500 people nationwide – an increase of more than four thousand people over the previous week. The U.S. continues to lead the number of deaths and cases relative to population globally. The winter surge has already begun.

Trump’s failure as a leader is exemplified by his continued recklessness regarding the coronavirus pandemic. People are dying while his Republican allies are forcing his anti-health care nominee onto the Supreme Court, and Trump only cares about his reelection. We must ensure that he and his Republican allies in the Senate are voted out of office this fall.