People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/23 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/23 Update)

In yet another chaotic news week – this one brimming with headlines about the last presidential debate, Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories, the Senate’s illegitimate process to confirm anti-health care nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and more – coronavirus caseloads and hospitalizations have continued to skyrocket across the U.S. Still, Donald Trump continued to spread lies and reject scientific expertise about the pandemic.

Since February, Trump has insisted at least 38 times that COVID-19 would disappear. But on October 16 the United States recorded more than 70,000 cases in a single day for the first time since July, and then 6 days later set a record at over 77,000 new cases in one day on October 22 – the same day that the U.S. recorded more than 1,100 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours. Against this background, the fact that Trump is averaging more than 50 false claims per day is truly staggering, and his actions only further hurt and jeopardize the American people.

  • Trump and Joe Biden, his Democratic rival for the presidency, faced off in the final debate on October 22. Although less appalling than his combative, manic performance at the first debate, Trump’s litany of untruths stood in sharp contrast to the debate performance of any previous president. Trump’s lies included many repeated falsehoods about coronavirus, including that the pandemic is “going away,” that shutting down the economy results in more people dying, and that his actions prevented 2.2 million people from dying, among many others.
  • Despite local health and medical experts’ calls for Trump to cancel his campaign rallies , he has continued to hold in-person events around the country.
    • On October 19, Trump criticized CNN for its pandemic coverage at a campaign rally in Arizona. He told his supporters that CNN is “trying to talk everybody out of voting” through its coverage and called the network “dumb bastards.” (He repeated those attacks again in North Carolina on October 21.)
    • At a rally in Nevada on October 18, Trump mocked Biden for saying he would “listen to the scientists” to control and end the pandemic. He lied that “if I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression … we’re like a rocket ship.” His assertion runs contrary to the observations of most economists and the lived experiences of the 1.1 million Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week, including the many American workers who have been laid off twice during the pandemic.
  • Politico reported on October 20 that the White House is considering slashing millions of dollars for pandemic relief in four cities – all Democratic-led – that Trump and DOJ Attorney General William Barr have referred to as “anarchist jurisdictions.”
  • Trump’s smear campaign against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, continued this week: On October 19, Trump said on a call with campaign staff that “Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths.” The next day, he repeated his attacks against Fauci, claiming that “he’s been wrong” on his widely accepted health and safety recommendations during the pandemic. Despite his continued public insults, however, CNN reported on October 21 that Trump consulted Fauci during his recovery from COVID-19.
  • On October 22 – the same day Senate Republicans voted anti-health care Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett out of committee – the White House leaked unedited video of Trump’s “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl. After Stahl questioned Trump about his campaign rallies and the lack of COVID safety precautions, he claimed that he told his supporters to wear masks and insulted her for having a “negative attitude.” When Stahl asked Trump about the upcoming Supreme Court decision to gut the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic, he responded, “I hope that they end it.” Further pressing the issue, Stahl asked about people with preexisting conditions, and Trump falsely promised that “they will be totally protected.”

Evidence continues to pile up about Trump’s abject failure to adequately respond to the pandemic. A new study from Columbia University concluded that hundreds of thousands of Americans died because of the federal government’s failed response. The study’s lead author called the pandemic response a “monumental, lethal screwup by an administration that didn’t want to deal with reality.” In addition, CNN fact-checkers concluded that Trump made more false or misleading claims from October 16 -18 than he did during nearly any other timeframe during his presidency.

Since early April, PFAW has reported every week on our country’s rising COVID caseload, and the dire circumstances too many Americans are facing amid the pandemic. Today, more than 222,000 Americans have died, and the pandemic’s third surge is upon us. A Harvard researcher released the sobering estimation that the coronavirus has claimed 2.5 million years of potential life in the U.S. alone, robbing our families and communities of decades that could have been spent with those now gone. Trump shows no interest in trying to empathize with the genuine fear and pain that people across the country are experiencing during this global catastrophe.

Furthermore, Trump and his Republican allies are focused on installing an anti-health care justice on the Supreme Court and maintaining political power by lying through campaign rallies to appeal to his base.

Our lives are on the line — and our only recourse against the damage Trump and his Republican cronies have inflicted upon our country and its people is to vote them out of office.