At a White House briefing on Tuesday, President Trump said no one took the danger of the coronavirus more seriously than he did.
“I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic,” said Trump. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
He doubled down on Wednesday morning in a tweet.
“I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China - against the wishes of almost all,” wrote Trump, referring to the coronavirus with a term that many consider offensive and medical experts discourage. “Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!”
But reality undercuts Trump’s assertions. In fact, the president downplayed the virus for weeks as it raged across other parts of the world and he was urged to begin mobilization against it in the United States.
“We have it totally under control,” he said on Jan. 22, adding, “It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” Trump said at a Feb. 10 rally in New Hampshire.
On Feb. 24, Trump tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
The Dow Jones average closed at 27,960 that day. Shortly after the open on Wednesday it was 20,127, approximately where it was when Trump took office in 2017.
The following day, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on CNBC, “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.”
On Feb. 26, Trump said at a coronavirus briefing, “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
On March 6, Vice President Mike Pence had to correct Trump about the rules on testing. In a White House briefing, Trump said, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test” for coronavirus, a misleading statement at the time and still not the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has badly lagged other countries in preparing a nationwide testing regime. Yet Trump repeated his claim on March 12, stating, “Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth.”
Going beyond Trump’s remarks in public, Politico has reported that the president discouraged widespread testing for the virus to keep the number of confirmed infections low. He said as much on March 6 when he discussed keeping sick people on a cruise ship off the coast of California because he didn’t want them counted in the U.S. total.
“I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump said. “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.”
On March 6 when Trump made those comments, the number of confirmed cases in the United States was 307. As of Wednesday morning, there were 6,496.
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