This week the United States achieved another milestone under the “leadership” of Donald Trump. More than 200,000 Americans have died as a result of his negligence, incompetence, and deliberate malfeasance in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Add to that the 6.7 million people who contracted the disease, many of whom will suffer permanent, debilitating disabilities.
This is unarguably a record of abject failure that translates into tragedy for millions of people. Yet somehow Trump gives himself a A+ for ranking near the bottom worldwide for managing this crisis. The only area that he concedes falling short is in public relations, for which he gives himself a D.
Trump deserves some credit for recognizing how terrible his White House communications operations are. For the most part they have ignored the traditional duties of conveying important information to the American people, choosing instead to conduct itself as an arm of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. And he has repeatedly been at odds with the medical experts on his Coronavirus Task Force. No wonder the cases and fatalities stack up even as other countries are returning to relative normality.
At the helm of Trump’s communications team is his press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. She’s an accomplished liar who is ably filling the shoes of her weasley predecessors Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and “alternative facts” spinner, Kellyanne Conway. As evidence of McEnany’s prowess for falsehoods, observe this response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta:
Acosta: The country has had over 200,000 deaths from coronavirus. What do you say to Americans who are outraged over this and blame this administration for so many lives lost in this country?
McEnany: Well, as you’ve heard several doctors on the task force note from this podium, we were looking at the prospect of two million people perishing from the coronavirus in this country. We grieve when even one life is lost, but the fact that we have come nowhere near that number is a testament to this president taking immediate action. After shutting down travel from China, when the other party, Democrats were saying that was xenophobic; for shutting down travel for Europe; for developing landmark therapeutics that are working, like Remdesivir.
.@acosta: What do you say to Americans who blame this administration for 200,000 Covid deaths?
McENANY: The fact that we have come nowhere near 2 million deaths is a testament to this president taking immediate action pic.twitter.com/Y5rHBLanG6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020
There’s a lot to unpack in that brief commentary. To begin with, we were never “looking at the prospect of two million people perishing.” That was a baseline estimate of fatalities if nothing were done at all to mitigate the spread of virus. While Trump didn’t do very much, many governors and mayors took independent actions to shut down hazardous activities and to promote safe practices such as social distancing and the wearing of facial masks, both of which Trump dismissed and even mocked. The two million fatality estimate was never intended to be a benchmark for success. Trump himself used smaller numbers, beginning with fifteen and rising with reported deaths to 60,000. It’s now more than three times that, and growing. That’s a testament to failure.
Furthermore, Trump never shut down travel from either China or Europe. His restrictions were full of exemptions and he applied them too late, after the virus was already spreading in the U.S. The criticism of his xenophobia was connected to his focus on China – even calling it the China virus – despite the fact that most of the cases in the U.S. were traceable to Europe. And finally, McEnany summed up Trump’s accomplishments by giving him credit for developing Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences in 2009.
It’s easy to see why Trump’s PR operations are held in such low repute, even by him. In the exchange above, McEnany never even answered Acosta’s question. But Trump’s own efforts aren’t helping. Just this weekend he made some ludicrous and blatantly false remarks about the coronavirus and it’s potential for transmission:
“Now we know [the coronavirus]. It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects. That’s it. In some states, thousands of people, nobody young below the age of eighteen, like nobody. They have a strong immune system. Who knows? Take your hat off to the young, cause they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
Trump falsely tells supporters COVID-19 affects "virtually nobody." pic.twitter.com/gM7KCyMbS1
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) September 22, 2020
You’ll recall that just last week Trump was heard on recordings by Bob Woodward for his book, RAGE, saying that COVID-19 affects “not just old…older. Young people too. Plenty of young people.” That was in addition to his admission that he knew from the start how deadly it was, but was playing it down.
200,000 are a lot of “nobodies.” But it was always Trump’s intention to trivialize the massive amount of suffering for which he is directly responsible. That explains the fallacies disseminated by his PR team. However, it isn’t because they performed poorly. In fact, it was probably the best performing agency in his administration. That’s because they were saying precisely what Trump wanted them to say.
McEnany and company were lying on Trump’s behalf and at his direction. So it’s unfair of him to grade them with a D, when they were just doing what they were told. They may have been grossly misinforming the public and putting untold lives at risk, but they were doing exactly the job that Trump hired them to do.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.