Mere weeks after a number of outlets remarked on his “new tone” about the coronavirus, President Donald Trump fully reverted to form during a lengthy interview on Wednesday’s installment of Fox & Friends.
Echoing widely derided, unscientific comments he made during the early days of the outbreak in January and February, Trump insisted schools should open for in-person instruction because the pandemic “is going to go away.”
“My view is the schools should open,” Trump said. “This thing is going away. It will go away like things go away, and my view is that schools should be open.”
Suffice it to say that public health experts do not think wishful thinking will be enough to bring Covid-19 under control in the US. Nor is it the case that the virus is currently “going away” — the more than 51,000 new cases reported in the country on Tuesday represent a slight decline from some particularly grim days late last month, when daily new cases exceeded 70,000, but is still far above the daily case numbers in May and June.
Yet in his next breath, Trump made another stunningly irresponsible statement, claiming children are “almost immune” from Covid-19. (There’s a lot we still don’t know about how the disease affects children, but even if their symptoms are generally milder, they can certainly still catch and transmit the disease.)
Trump pushes the claim that children are "almost immune" to make his case: "My view is the school's should open. This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away."— The Recount (@therecount) August 5, 2020
So this morning he's said "this thing's going away" and "it will go by." This is where we're at. pic.twitter.com/7KEICeU77T
Trump doesn’t seem to have many qualms about letting the pandemic rage on in hopes of boosting the economy ahead of November’s election, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he views school closures, mask mandates, and other measures taken by state and local officials in response to the pandemic as nothing more than conspiracies to damage him politically.
“We’re set to rock and roll, but the big problem we have is Democrats don’t want to open their schools, because they think it’s going to hurt the election for the Republicans,” said Trump — seemingly oblivious to the reality that the problem is the pandemic, not efforts to save lives while responding to it.
"We're set to rock & roll, but the big problem we have is Democrats don't want to open their schools, b/c they think it's going to hurt the election for the Republicans." - Trump still thinks mask mandates & schools closures are Dem conspiracies, not necessary public health steps pic.twitter.com/56WfTxF978— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
During another part of the interview, Trump went to desperate lengths to make it seem as though the US isn’t doing that badly with regard to the coronavirus when compared to other countries.
“You look at Spain is in a big, big second wave. Italy has a wave going. A lot of countries are having a [second wave] — but nobody ever talks about that. We have done an incredible job in this country, an incredible job,” Trump said.
"Italy has a wave going. A lot of countries are having a [second wave] -- but nobody ever talks about that. We have done an incredible job in this country, an incredible job." -- Italy reported 190 new Covid cases on Tuesday. The US had 51,185.— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
The outbreaks are not comparable. pic.twitter.com/ZzwCePBqkE
But while new cases in Spain have spiked from under 300 a day last month to 5,760 on Tuesday, that pales in comparison to the 50,000-plus a day that has been the norm in the US for the past month (Spain reported 26 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, compared to 1,265 in the US). Despite Trump’s statements, the dire situation in the US is apples and oranges compared to Europe.
Trump is barely trying to conceal his efforts to dismantle the Post Office and use the White House as a political prop
As is usually the case when Trump is interviewed by Fox News hosts not named Chris Wallace, the president’s misleading and irresponsible claims were met with no pushback. But the friendly nature of the questioning didn’t prevent him from making a number of newsworthy remarks that weren’t directly about the coronavirus.
Asked whether he’s intentionally sabotaging the Post Office to create difficulties for voters hoping to cast their ballots by mail this November, Trump not only didn’t deny it but claimed “the Postal Service for 40 years has had big problems, and they’re not equipped” to handle a high volume of mailed ballots. (The Postal Service said on Monday it actually has “ample capacity” to handle it.)
Asked on Fox & Friends about Hillary Clinton accusing him of sabotaging the Postal Service, Trump immediately pivots to bashing Clinton and never denies that that's what he's up to pic.twitter.com/zlEMwXxquw— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
Trump’s handpicked postmaster general — Louis DeJoy, a Trump megadonor — has overseen changes to the USPS, including the end of overtime pay, that have resulted in service slowdowns. Coming as they do just weeks before the November’s election, elections experts worry that Trump is trying to make his claims that widespread mail-in voting will result in a “CORRUPT ELECTION” a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Of course, with the coronavirus pandemic making it risky to physically go to polling places, Americans have good reason to want to vote by mail. Trump, however, indicated on Fox & Friends that he’s not particularly worried his efforts to make mail-in voting as burdensome as possible will disenfranchise seniors and other at-risk groups because he thinks the country “will probably be in very good shape” with regard to the coronavirus by then — another claim at odds with public health experts from his own government who have warned that this fall will be a very difficult time for public health in the US.
"By the time we get to [Election Day], we will probably be in very good shape" -- Trump suggests the coronavirus won't be an issue preventing seniors from physically going to the polls in November pic.twitter.com/NOgENfPCdx— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
While Trump seems to think the coronavirus isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s a big enough deal to disrupt plans for the Republican National Convention. With his goal of delivering his big RNC speech later this month before a packed house in North Carolina or Florida now off the table because of the pandemic, Trump told Fox & Friends he’s strongly leaning toward doing it at the White House.
“We’re thinking about doing it from the White House because there’s no movement — it’s easy — and I think it’s a beautiful setting,” Trump said.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wasted no time responding to that news by characterizing Trump’s new plan as an egregious abuse of power.
“President Trump accepting the GOP nomination from the White House would be completely unprecedented,” CREW communications director Jordan Libowitz told Vox in an email. “Giving a political speech of this magnitude and visibility on the White House grounds creates the appearance that it’s a government-sanctioned event, something multiple laws were written to avoid.”
Fox & Friends hosts, however, didn’t press the issue. Nor did they challenge Trump minutes later when he pushed a baseless and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about antifa, saying, “You have Democrats funding them. They say Soros and they say other people.”
Trump may have wanted a pick-me-up after his disastrous Axios showing
While Trump’s latest Fox News appearance stood in stark contrast with the grilling he received from Axios’s Jonathan Swan in an interview that aired Sunday, there were a number of instances where Trump appeared flummoxed by total softballs.
Asked to detail his second-term agenda, Trump — who has repeatedly struggled with this question during interviews on Sean Hannity’s show — still couldn’t name a single specific thing, and instead started talking about how “we had the greatest economy in the history of the world” before the coronavirus hit.
Unbelievable -- Trump still can't name a single specific thing he wants to accomplish in a second term pic.twitter.com/M5P24zsLI8— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
Then, to close out the interview, host Ainsley Earhardt asked Trump what he can do to heal racial strife in the country. Trump responded by ranting about unemployment rates and his poll numbers.
Asked as the interview winds down what he can do to heal racial strife in the country, Trump immediately starts ranting about the unemployment rate and his poll numbers. Beyond parody. pic.twitter.com/5PXoKdfueQ— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
Trump’s hour-long appearances on Fox & Friends often have the feel of public therapy sessions where he can blow off steam, brag about overinflated achievements, and rail against his perceived enemies. The picture that emerged on Wednesday was one of a president who is remarkably out of touch with what’s actually going on in the country — one who views a pandemic that has now killed nearly 160,000 Americans as a personal affront to his waning reelection hopes.