In a new Axios on HBO interview that aired Monday night, President Donald Trump sat down with host and journalist Jonathan Swan at the White House to talk about some of the most pressing issues in America today. The interview had been filmed the week prior.
While lots of ground was covered, the president spent most of it trying to dismiss criticisms of his administration’s handling of the pandemic — repeating false claims about America as a whole being in control of the virus, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. He even got into a data battle with the reporter, bringing his own charts to try to prove the U.S. is handling coronavirus better than, well, anywhere. But what were some of the most baffling moments of the nearly 40-minute long interview?
Testing “too much” to blame for coronavirus
Among claims that the United States is doing a good job fighting COVID-19, Trump pulled out one of his own papers with data on it, pointing to a chart and saying, “Here’s one right here. You take the United States — we’re last. Meaning we’re first.” It’s unclear what Trump was referring to. He also subtly implied that South Korea may be faking their numbers, and pushed his theory that numbers are only so high in America because of how many tests are being done. When questioned about how we could “test too much,” Trump responded, “Just read the manuals, read the books.” He wouldn’t give an answer as to what books he meant.
Claims that coronavirus deaths in U.S. “lower than the world”
Confronted with the daily death toll during the pandemic, the president got very defensive. Trump claimed that “it’s under control” and “it is what it is.” But things didn’t end there. “United States is lowest in numerous categories. We’re lower than the world, we’re lower than Europe,” he said, pointing to his charts from who knows where.
Despite the fact that more than 155,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, Trump continuously pointed to the proportion of deaths to confirmed coronavirus cases, instead of the proportion of deaths to the U.S. population, which is a more accurate measure. Currently, America has about 25% of global deaths from COVID-19, despite being about 5% of the world population.
.@jonathanvswan: “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”@realdonaldtrump: “You can’t do that.”
Swan: “Why can’t I do that?” pic.twitter.com/MStySfkV39
— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
During the interview, Trump was asked to clarify his comments regarding Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged child sex trafficker. When asked why he would “wish such a person well,” Trump tried to point out that he would “wish a lot of people well” if they were in jail. He then turned to the conspiracies around Jeffrey Epstein’s death, saying people are still trying to figure out how he died and if it was by suicide.
“I do wish her well, I’m not looking for anything bad for her, I’m not looking for anything bad for anybody,” Trump said of Maxwell. Again, Swan pointed out, “I mean, she’s a child sex trafficker.”
“I don’t know John Lewis”
When Swan asked Trump about the late Rep. John Lewis, the president not only claimed not to know Lewis but then went into a diatribe about the politician’s lack of attendance at his inauguration in early 2017. “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe,” Trump said.
.@jonathanvswan: “How do you think history will remember John Lewis?”
President Trump to #AxiosOnHBO: “I don’t know…I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.” pic.twitter.com/LDv76rrIFc
— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
This comes after Trump tweeted in honor of Lewis after his death, saying, “’Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.” After his death, the White House did issue a proclamation from Trump ordering that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Lewis. However, Trump did fail to show up to his memorial services in July. Also in response to a question about if he found John Lewis’s life to be impressive, Trump again pointed out that he didn’t come to his inauguration, and pivoted to himself to say, “Again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.”
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?