- From claiming Democrats were making the coronavirus “their new hoax” to saying “it will go away,” President Donald Trump has consistently tried to downplay the severity of the outbreak.
- Now enacting a travel ban and facing a possible emergency declaration, Trump and his administration are looking to calm the market and the American public by conveying credibility.
- But Trump’s past statements and those of senior officials in his administration have demonstrated a habit of understating the extent of the virus when experts kept warning of its mounting danger.
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President Donald Trump and his administration are now singing a different tune when it comes to the coronavirus.
With the rollout of a travel ban and possibly other more severe measures, President Trump is calling for the American public to rally behind efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 after contradicting experts over the past few weeks.
“I am fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!” Trump tweeted yesterday, March 11, as the flood gates opened on events closing down, from the NBA postponing its games to college campuses suspending the spring semester.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is ostensibly in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force – despite reporting that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has the final word on its recommendations – even went so far as to vaguely condemn “some irresponsible rhetoric” over the severity of the outbreak.
This is all just days after Trump and other officials were on the record downplaying the deadliness and reach of COVID-19.
Here are some of the most blatant instances where Trump and other White House officials clearly contradicted experts in an effort to convince the American public that the coronavirus wouldn’t be that bad.
“Their new hoax”
In a meandering tangent loosely comparing the coronavirus to his impeachment-related call with the President of Ukraine and the Russia investigation, Trump argued the opposing party was using a then-epidemic (now pandemic) to undermine him politically.
“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump said. “One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. … They tried anything. … And this is their new hoax.”
Larry Kudlow urged Americans to “stay at work,” claiming the coronavirus “looks relatively contained.”
U.S. Director of the Economic Council Larry Kudlow has taken heat for his misleading statements on the coronavirus, culminating in a CNBC interview last week where he told Americans to keep going to work because the virus was “relatively contained.”
“I don’t want to downplay anything,” Kudlow said before effectively downplaying the true extent of the coronavirus and its momentum. “Worry about the effect on human beings, for heaven’s sake. But I’m just saying, let’s not overreact. In many ways, America should stay at work.”
“We don’t actually know what the magnitude of the virus is going to be, although frankly so far it looks relatively contained.”
Kellyanne Conway said the coronavirus “is being contained.”
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway took a similar approach to Kudlow in spinning the virus as “being contained” when fielding questions from reporters last week.
“It is being contained,” Conway said when asked about a lack of available tests. “Do you not think it’s being contained in this country?”
Trump: “I like the numbers being where they are.”
In perhaps the most notable instance during the White House’s public credibility struggle amid the coronavirus outbreak so far, President Trump said the quiet part out loud.
When speaking about the Diamond Princess cruise ship being quarantined off the coast of California, Trump explicitly said he would prefer to juke the stats on COVID-19.
“I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump continued. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, ok? It wasn’t their fault either and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”
Comparing the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, Trump claimed, “We have it so well under control.”
In a meandering press conference last month, Trump rattled off a series of misleading claims about the coronavirus when establishing the task force and putting Pence in charge in late February.
One of the most eye popping parts of the press conference came when Trump said he learned of how tens of thousands of people die from the flu each year.
“That was shocking to me,” he said before later going on another tangent arguing the coronavirus – which won’t have a vaccine for at least a year – is like dealing with the flu.
“But when I mentioned the flu, I said – actually, I asked the various doctors. I said, ‘Is this just like flu?’ Because people die from the flu,” Trump continued. “And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher.
“But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”