People For the American Way

Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (9/18 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (9/18 Update)

Despite last week’s revelations that Donald Trump has been intentionally misleading the public about the severity of the pandemic, he has doubled down on his dangerous behavior. Even after new clips from Bob Woodward’s interviews emerged in which Trump admitted that COVID-19 is “so easily transmissible,” his administration’s playbook has remained the same: Deny. Lie. Misdirect. Repeat.

  • On September 15, Trump participated in an ABC News town hall with undecided voters. Often incoherent and rambling, his responses to questions from the audience further reveal his denial, refusal and inability to respond to the crisis:
    • When asked about his comment that he deliberately downplayed the true danger of the virus, Trump said that he “actually, in many ways, up-played it.”
    • Trump criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for not implementing a national mask mandate, even though Biden does not currently hold a seat in federal office.
    • Trump repeated false and unscientific claims that COVID-19 would “disappear” over time even without a vaccine because people will develop a “herd mentality.”
    • Contradicting his own earlier admission that a vaccine would take months, Trump insisted that “we’re within weeks of getting” a distributable vaccine, even saying that it “could be [out within] three weeks, four weeks.”
  • Trump continued to defy health experts’ social distancing recommendations and held two indoor campaign events this week, on September 13 and 14 in Henderson, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona. The Nevada rally was held despite the state’s regulations that limit public gatherings to no more than 50 people. An anonymous Trump adviser told The New York Times that the campaign was “playing a game of Russian roulette” in holding these indoor events, and that Trump’s “cavalier” attitude toward COVID-19 would likely backfire.
  • In a particularly callous moment at a news briefing, on September 16 Trump falsely claimed that “blue states had had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out … We’re really at a very low level.” This seems to suggest that the only deaths Trump cares about are those in red states where he perceives his base is located.
  • Further proving that Trump’s interest in a vaccine is politically motivated, Trump told Fox News Channel TV host Jeanine Pirro during a September 12 interview that if a vaccine is released prior to November 3, “it wins the election for me.”
  • On September 16, Trump chided Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield for his estimation that a COVID-19 vaccine will likely not be available for widespread public use until mid-2021, claiming that the CDC director had “made a mistake” and provided the Senate with “incorrect information.”
  • One of the major stories in Trump world this week revolved around the strange behavior of Michael Caputo, a fervent Trump devotee formerly on the campaign and installed in April – by Trump himself – as Health and Human Services’ new spokesperson. Initial reports described how he and his adviser, Paul Alexander, made substantial efforts to align the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report with the White House’s coronavirus messaging, irrespective of the scientific truth. In the wake of that news, Caputo went on a bizarre tirade on a Facebook Live broadcast against the scientists at the CDC, accusing them of “sedition” and claiming that his life was in danger. He later apologized, and then announced that he will step down for two months, while Alexander will leave HHS permanently.
  • Less than two months after Trump released executive orders he claimed would spark the economy amid the pandemic, data increasingly demonstrate how ineffective that effort has been. Companies overwhelmingly chose not to shore up workers’ incomes by deferring payroll taxes, and Yelp’s latest economic report reveals that about 60 percent of all pandemic-related business closures are now permanent.

It has now been nine months since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the United States. Our country continues its grim march towards 200,000 deaths. The Midwest saw its case surge reach new, worrisome heights. Donald Trump has shown us for nine months his complete lack of fitness to lead Americans through the public health crisis, let alone acknowledge the devastation that his lies and failures continue to cause.

We deserve leaders who are equipped to solve the multiple crises we are facing. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris offer us a path forward from this moment of darkness – and with less than 50 days until Election Day, it’s more critical than ever that we do everything in our power to make sure they take back the White House.