What The President Said (About The Plague)

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Rather than place Trump’s statements in strict chronological order, I have sometimes put 2 or more of statements from different days together, to highlight Trump’s contradictions and subsequent deviations– these are prefaced by an asterisk. I have retained Trump’s numerous linguistic infelicities. It should be noted that Trump sometimes refers to himself in the third person:

Jan 22 –- “We have it totally under control. It is one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

Jan 22– “No, the coronavirus won’t become a pandemic. Not at all.”

*March 17 -– “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

Jan 24 -– “It will all work out well.”

Jan 30 –- “We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at the moment – five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”

Feb 10 –- “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

*April 3— “ “I didn’t say a date. … I said it’s going away, and it is going away.”

Feb 19 –- “I think the numbers are getting progressively better as we go.”

Feb 20 –- “…within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero.”

Feb 22 -– “We have it very much under control in this country.”

Feb 24— “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock market starting to look very good to me.”

Feb 25 -– “…the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus… they tried the impeachment hoax … and this is their new hoax.” (to Sean Hannity)

Feb 26 – “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for and we will essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”

*Feb 29 -– “Everything is really under control.” (The vaccine will be available) “very rapidly.”

*March 2 -– “You take a solid flu vaccine — you don’t think that would have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?” [“No,” Dr Schleifer replied.]

Feb 26 -– “We’re going down, not up.”

Feb 26 -– “But with Ebola — we were talking about it before — you disintegrated. If you got Ebola, that was it. This one is different. Much different. This is a flu. This is like a flu. And this is a much different situation than Ebola. … We can now treat Ebola. In that — at that time, it was infectious and you couldn’t treat it. Nobody knew anything about it. Nobody had ever heard of anything like this. So it’s a much different situation”.

March 2 -– “It’s very mild.”

March 3– (saying he doesn’t want to let people off the Grand Princess cruise ship because the number of coronavirus cases in the country would go up) “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”

March 4 –- (on the WHO saying the coronavirus death rate is 3.4%) “I think the 3.4% number is really a false number. Now this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations … personally, I’d say the number is way under 1%.”

March 4– “…we’re talking about very small numbers in the United States.”

March 4– “So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work, but they get better”.

*March 5—“I never said that people who were feeling sick should go to work”.

March 4– “I think that Easter Sunday and you’ll have packed churches all over this country, I think that this will be a beautiful time.”

*March 29 –” “Social distancing rules will be extended to 30 April. My open for Easter plans were only aspirational.”

*April 4— “We’re not going to churches on Palm Sunday. But think of next Sunday: Easter. And I brought it up before, I said, maybe we could allow a special for churches. Maybe we could talk about it. Maybe we could allow them with great separation outside on Easter Sunday.”

March 6 -– (visiting the CDC) “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘how do you know so much about this?’ maybe I have a natural ability.’ Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 6– “Anybody that needs a test gets a test. We –- they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful”.

March 6—(at Fox News Town Hall) Well, actually, we were giving — I think really given tremendous marks — if you look at Gallup poll, you look at other polls — for the way we’ve handled it.…

[W]e’ve been given rave reviews….

So we were really given tremendous marks…

Again, we’ve gotten the highest poll numbers of anybody for this kind of a thing. …

We’ve been given A-pluses for that….

Well, I think people are viewing us as having done a very good job.

March 7– “I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it.”

*March 30– “If we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, that’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000 — so we have between 100- and 200,000 — we altogether have done a very good job.”

*March 31– “I want every American to be prepared for the tough days ahead. This is going to be a very, very painful two weeks.” [As American fatalities surpass those in China.]

March 30– “We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests…. I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.” [South Korea, which reported its first COVID-19 test the same day as the United States’ first, has tested 40 times more people than the US on a per-capita basis.]

*April 2– “We’ve tested more than any other country in the world both in terms of the raw number, and also on a per capita basis, the most.” [The reality regarding testing per capita– Germany: 1 in 90 people, South Korea: 1 in 119 people, US: 1 in 273 people]

March 10 -– “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

March 10– “I’ve been briefed on every contingency you could possibly imagine. Many contingencies. A lot of positive. Different numbers, all different numbers. Very large numbers. And some small numbers, too, by the way.”

* March 30—””You know, I see things — I see numbers. They don’t matter to me.”

March 18—“We have tremendous numbers of ventilators, but there’s never been an instance like this where no matter what you have, it’s not enough.”

*March 26– “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes and they’ll have two ventilators.”

*March 30—”Many of the states are stocked up. Some of them don’t admit it, but they have — we have sent just so much — so many things to them and — including ventilators.”

*April 1– “We have, as you know, almost 10,000 ventilators which we need for flexibility. It’s sounds like a lot but it’s not.”

*April 3– “We are doing the best we can… We happen to think [Governor Andrew Cuomo] is well served with ventilators. We are going to find out.” (As China is sending thousands of ventilators to New York]

March 13– “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

March 16 –-(asked to rate his own performance) “I’d rate it a ten.”

March 17 –-“The only thing we haven’t done well is to get good press. We’ve done a fantastic job but it hasn’t been appreciated. Even the closing down of the borders, which had never been done, and not only did we close them but we closed it early. The press doesn’t like writing about it.”

March 19— “Other countries are following what I did”.

March 20—(touting an untested malaria drug as a possible cure for COVID-19) “I will say that I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to in particular one of these drugs, and we’ll see how it works out… I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

March 25– “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success.”

March 27– “22 days ago we had the greatest economy in the world, everything was going beautifully, the stock market hit an all-time high”. [On March 5, 22 days before Trump’s statement, the Dow dropped 3.6% or 970 points, then its fifth-worst single-day point drop on record.]

March 28– “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan. So we can’t, you know, we don’t like to see the complaints.”

*March 30– “I get on a lot of the governor calls where we’ll have all 50 governors… And I’ll tell you what, if you could listen to those calls, you’d never hear a complaint.”

March 29– “It’s a New York hospital. How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000 – something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?”

March 29– “President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…”

March 30– (on Nancy Pelosi’s criticism of his handling of the virus crisis) “She’s a sick puppy in my opinion. She really is. She’s got a lot of problems My poll numbers are the highest they’ve ever been because of her.”

March 30– “I don’t have to call because I’m probably better off not, because we don’t get — he’s a failed presidential candidate. He’s a nasty person. I don’t like the governor of Washington [Jay Inslee].”

March 30– “It’s almost a miracle the way it’s all come together…”

March 30– “So we have more cases than anybody, but we’re doing really well, and we also have a very low — relative to other countries — very low mortality rate. And there are reasons for that.” [It’s too early to know actual death rates from COVID-19 in any country.]

March 30– “I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s very tight. Do you know how many people are in Seoul? Do you know how big the city of Seoul is? Thirty-eight million people. That’s bigger than anything we have.” [The population of Seoul is less than 10m. South Korea’s population is 51 million.]

March 30– “We inherited a broken test.” [There could be no test for COVID-19 until it emerged.]

March 30— “I stopped some very, very infected, very, very sick people, thousands coming in from China long earlier than anybody thought, including the experts. Nobody thought we should do it except me. And I stopped everybody. We stopped it cold.” [The travel ban was a consensus recommendation from Trump’s public-health task force.]

March 30– “Unfortunately, the enemy is death. It’s death. A lot of people are dying, so it’s very unpleasant. It’s a very unpleasant thing to go through.”

*April 4—“… there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.”

March 30— “I didn’t say that.”

March 30— “This is really easy to be negative about. But I want to give people hope too. You know I’m a cheerleader for the country — we are going through the worst thing that the country has probably ever seen.”

March 31—(on his daily press briefings) “I’m sure people are enjoying it. I will say this: It’s an incredibly dark topic, an incredibly horrible topic, and it’s incredibly interesting. That’s why everybody is going crazy, they’re going crazy, they can’t get enough of it.”

April 1– “I have hundreds of millions of people. Number one on Facebook … Did you know? I just found out.”

April 1– “He [Dr Fauci] was a great basketball player, did anybody know that? He was a little on the short side for the NBA but he was talented.”

April 1– (When a Fox News reporter asked him a tough question) “What are you, working for CNN?”

April 2– “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should…”

April 2– (when Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the appointment of a bipartisan House committee to investigate the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic) “This is not the time for politics. Endless partisan investigations –- here we go again – have already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years. You see what happens. It’s witch-hunt after witch-hunt after witch-hunt and, in the end, the people doing the witch-hunt have been losing, and they’ve been losing by a lot. It’s not any time for witch-hunts.”

April 2— “By the way, the states should have been building their stockpiles. We’re a backup, we’re not an ordering clerk. Whoever heard of a governor calling up the federal government and saying, ‘Sir, we need a hospital?’”

April 2– “I will always protect your Social Security, your Medicare and your Medicaid” [Trump has always supported cuts to these in the past.]

April 3– (When asked why the US failed to stockpile enough medical supplies for the current emergency) “Speak to the people from the previous administration. The shelves were empty.” [Trump has been president since 2017, and ignored early warnings of a forthcoming pandemic, including from his own HHS secretary. Three months before the first COVID-19 cases began spreading through China, Trump’s administration ended a $200m early warning programme intended to alert it to potential pandemics.]

April 3— (When asked by a reporter for clarification on Jared Kushner’s statement about the federal stockpile of medical supplies being “ours”) “You oughtta be ashamed of yourself for asking that question.”

April 3– “The models show hundreds of thousands of people are going to die and you know what I want to do? I want to come way under the model. The professionals did the models and I was never involved in a model. At least this kind of a model.”

April 4– “”caranavirus” [mispronunciation]

April 4—“ “So I want to keep them out of ventilators, I want to keep them — if this drug works, it will be not a game changer because that’s not a nice enough term. It will be wonderful, it’ll be so beautiful, it’ll be a gift from heaven if it works, because when people go into those ventilators, you know the answers, and I’m glad you don’t write about it.”

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.