In 2017, a journalist claimed that Trump’s Hurricane Katrina would be ‘a deadly pandemic.’ He tells us why he made that prediction.

A woman wears a mask and protective clothing in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 21, 2005, weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • In 2017, Wired writer Steve Silberman predicted that “Trump’s Katrina will be a deadly pandemic.”
  • A best-selling author, Silberman told Business Insider that it was his expertise on autism – which President Donald Trump once incorrectly suggested is caused by vaccines – that led to his prediction.
  • “Obviously, having been so on-the-nose with this tweet three years ago is cold comfort now that a deadly pandemic is upon us,” he said.
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More than 1,800 people died as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina, and at least 12,900 Americans have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The 2005 hurricane, and the anemic response from the federal government – to a disaster it had been warned was impending – spelled the end of then-President George W. Bush’s political capital. Now many are wondering in an election year: could his slow response to the current pandemic spell the end of Donald Trump’s presidency?

CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and Al Jazeera have all run pieces suggesting it might, likening the months “wasted” in response to COVID-19 to the flat-footed Bush administration.

But journalist Steve Silberman was first to make that comparison with a now eerily prescient tweet. In May 2017, Silberman, the author of a New York Times bestseller, “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity,” was livid over the Trump administration’s decision to slash the budget of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Trump’s Katrina will be a deadly pandemic,” he tweeted in response.

“Obviously, having been so on-the-nose with this tweet three years ago is cold comfort now that a deadly pandemic is upon us,” Silberman told Business Insider.

He wasn’t alone, either, as he readily admits: the outgoing administration of former President Barack Obama sought to impress upon its successor the need to prepare for a pandemic.

What is especially interesting about Silberman’s unfortunate prescience is that it was his expertise in autism that informed his assessment.

In 2014, the future US president promoted the long-discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. That, Silberman said, led him to question his understanding of science altogether – and his ability to manage a public health crisis.^tfw

“Long before I ever heard the word, ‘coronavirus,’ I knew that Trump was simply incapable of thinking and working at that level,” Silberman said.

He likens Trump’s promotion of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a no-lose remedy for the coronavirus to snake oil salesman offering crank “cures” for the neurologically divergent. There is no hard evidence that this drug – used for malaria, lupus, and arthritis – works as a COVID-19 treatment, and it can have both short-term side effects in addition to and serious long-term side effects. Misuse of the drug can be lethal.

“He is precisely the wrong man at the wrong time in history,” Silberman argued. “And now many Americans will pay the price with their lives.”

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