It took President Donald Trump 22 minutes into his hour-long phone call with Fox & Friends on Friday morning to even mention the still-raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 75,000 Americans. But, as news broke that the lockdown caused record 14.7 percent unemployment rolled in while he was live on air, the subject became unavoidable.
His reaction to the news of unprecedented hardship across the nation? Sure, it sucks, but it’s not his fault. “It’s fully expected,” he said when confronted with the alert that 20.5 million jobs had been lost in April, sending the unemployment rate up to 14.7 percent. “It’s no surprise... Even the Democrats are not blaming me for that.”
Despite disowning any blame for the current state of the economy, Trump went on to boast at length about the strength of it before it was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. “We created the greatest economy in the history of the world,” he said. “We were blowing away China, we were blowing away everybody, we were the envy of the world and then they came in and they explained it and they said, ‘Sir, you have to turn it off, we have to close the country.’”
Trump promised, “Those jobs will all be back and they’ll be back very soon and next year we’re going to have a phenomenal year. People are ready to go, we’ve got to get it open, people are ready to go.”
The president repeatedly stressed how important he believes it is that the economy reopens as soon as possible, despite the fact that the pandemic is still raging. He described the virus as “a much smarter enemy” than his foes in the Democratic Party and said it was “a very brilliant enemy and it happens to be invisible.”
Trump appeared to suggest that he believes that the reluctance to reopen the economy in some states is just to cause harm to his chances in November’s presidential election. He said, “I will tell you: You look at some cases, some people think they’re doing it for politics. Here we go again. They think they’re doing it because it will hurt me in the election the longer it takes to open up, and I can see some of that.”
On his own brush with the deadly virus, following the news that one of his personal valets has tested positive, Trump confirmed the valet was in the Oval Office with him on Tuesday, the day he began exhibiting symptoms. The valet tested positive Wednesday—but Trump said all of his recent tests have come back negative, and he will soon receive an antibody test to see if he has had the virus.
Elsewhere in the interview, Trump also raised eyebrows by going off on a riff about Richard Nixon, one day after his Department of Justice asked to drop charges against his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whom he fired and subsequently mused publicly about pardoning if he was convicted.
Trump said that he “learned a lot” from the disgraced former president about not firing people, though noted there was “one big difference” between him and Nixon.
“No. 1, [Nixon] may have been guilty and No. 2 he had tapes all over the place,” said Trump. “I wasn’t guilty, I did nothing wrong, and there are no tapes, but I wish there were tapes in my case. But I learned a lot from Richard Nixon.”