People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/09 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/09 Update)

This week’s edition of the blog series tracks the progression of Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, his and his administration’s response to it, and the repercussions within the federal government from his distractions and failures.

  • On October 4, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump hid his positive COVID-19 test results, including in an October 1 interview with Fox News, for several hours before he announced his diagnosis on Twitter. His aides are refusing to give the exact date when Trump last tested negative.
  • The same Wall Street Journal article also revealed that Trump explicitly ordered an adviser to “[not] tell anyone” about several other White House staffers’ positive tests. At the time of this writing, 34 White House staffers and other contacts have contracted the disease. It is unclear whether that group includes West Wing government employees and White House residence staff, the majority of whom are Black and Latino.
  • Before his official diagnosis, Trump ignored the onset of COVID-19 symptoms and attended an indoor campaign fundraising event in New Jersey. The White House has since identified more than 200 people in New Jersey who were possibly exposed at the event.
  • A USA Today investigation found that Trump and other White House insiders could have spread the coronavirus to potentially thousands of people across state lines.
  • While Trump was under care at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, he flouted health and safety regulations for COVID-19 patients: During his stay, he visited multiple people around the hospital complex and forced his Secret Service agents to drive him around in an enclosed vehicle to greet gathered supporters.
  • On October 5, the White House declined an offer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact trace the guests and staff who attended the September 26 White House Rose Garden event for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Many experts believe the event could be the superspreader event that sparked the White House coronavirus outbreak. In addition, the White House has neglected to contact local officials in Washington, D.C. in the wake of Trump and White House officials’ positive diagnoses.
  • Further demonstrating Trump’s refusal to take others’ safety into consideration, he refused additional safety measures requested by the Commission on Presidential Debates, instead insisting on either cancelling or postponing the debate previously scheduled for October 15.
  • Following Trump’s (maskless) return to the White House, he tweeted on October 6 that he had ordered his Republican allies to pull out of coronavirus stimulus talks until “immediately after I win” the election. Trump’s announcement came mere hours after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said that the U.S. was facing a “longer than expected slog back to full recovery.”
  • Even after being treated for a potentially severe case of the virus, Trump continued to spread misinformation about COVID-19 to the public. On October 5, Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” and on October 7 he said that his diagnosis with coronavirus is “a blessing from God.” The next day, he posted that COVID-19 is “less lethal” than the seasonal flu. Facebook subsequently removed that post for violating its rules regarding coronavirus misinformation, and Twitter appended a disclaimer to his tweet stating that the information it contained was false.
  • After the White House spent two weeks blocking the publication of new coronavirus vaccine production guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the health agency finally released the document. It increases safety protocols – and makes it highly unlikely that a vaccine could be released before November 3. Trump then complained that the FDA had pulled a “political hit job” on him by releasing these more stringent regulations.
  • On October 8, during Trump’s hourlong telephone interview with Fox Business, he announced plans to resume in-person campaign rallies as early as this Saturday. In between coughs, he claimed that “I don’t think I’m contagious at all.”

The pandemic has now claimed the lives of more than 210,000 people, and is “making a dangerous comeback” in most of the U.S. This week, the average caseload is on the rise in 39 states. In the Midwest, the surge of severe cases is so high that ICU bed capacity is at a dangerous peak. Mortality data from 32 countries around the world reveal that the official worldwide coronavirus death count is missing at least 338,000 deaths caused by the disease.

And this week, Trump’s diagnosis and the COVID-19 outbreak in the White House and on Capitol Hill has added even more urgency to the crises Americans are facing. Trump’s refusal to accept the ongoing and worsening reality of the pandemic, even in the White House and on Capitol Hill, is now creating a dangerous ripple effect in Congress. Three Republican senators have tested positive for the coronavirus; two of them on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yet in a craven attempt to rush Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation through, Republican senators are now refusing to get tested for COVID-19 to avoid a delay in processing Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.

Furthermore, Admiral Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive for the disease on September 27 – one day after he attended a White House event to honor Gold Star families. Following Admiral Ray’s diagnosis, the highest military chiefs in the U.S. are under quarantine, causing former military leaders to warn about the national security threat this posed. Trump, though, went on the air on October 8 to suggest that he contracted COVID-19 at the Gold Star family event.

Peoples’ lives are at stake. The security of our country is at stake. Yet Trump’s actions, words, and behavior remain dangerously reckless even after his own COVID diagnosis. It is clearer than ever that this man is unfit to serve – and we must hold him accountable for his many failures at the ballot box on November 3.