On Trump’s COVID Rallies: Lying and Bullying Are Different Things

Ben Smith wrote a column about how the press should deal with Trump’s daily COVID pressers rallies that has pissed a lot of journalists off. In it, he suggests even having the debate that he’s actually engaging in is tiresome.

I don’t intend to reopen the tiresome debate over whether news organizations should broadcast Mr. Trump’s remarks. The only people really debating this are the outlets for whom it doesn’t really matter, unless you’re big on symbolism. How many listeners to Seattle’s NPR affiliate are proud red hat wearers? And who thinks that the outlets for whom it would matter — Fox News, most of all — are even considering it? The whole debate seemed rooted in the idea that if only your favored news outlet didn’t live stream the president, he would just go away.

But that’s not the biggest problem with Smith’s column.

The very first line of the column suggests — in mocking tone — that the story of Trump’s COVID rallies is his bullying.

Did you hear? The president said some things today. Mean things! About someone I know … I can’t quite remember the details, or whether it was today or yesterday, or what day of the week it is, anyway.

In claiming the COVID rallies are about Trump’s bullying, Smith focuses on the warm mutual dysfunction of Maggie Haberman’s relationship with the President. He doesn’t talk about the way that the President uses the COVID rallies to denigrate beautiful smart women who are in the room with him, questioning him, which in my opinion is a story unto itself if you want to talk whether symbolism is worth airing or not.

And that’s one of the reasons why — contrary to Smith’s claim — it’s not clear the rallies really are, “The most effective form of direct presidential communication since Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats,” because they continue to alienate people like the suburban women whose support Trump would need to win reelection. If it were just about Trump’s bullying, Smith’s argument would still be suspect regarding Trump’s efficacy.

But the debate about the COVID rallies is not just about Trump’s bullying.

On the contrary, it’s about his lies. In his column, Smith suggests that Trump’s COVID rallies only “occasionally” derail the public health response.

[T]hey should cover them as what they are, a political campaign, not as a central part of the public health response except to the degree that it occasionally derails that response.

Trump has encouraged people to take untested medicine, he has refused to model the rules on social distancing his own CDC recommends, to say nothing of wearing a mask in public. He has at times interrupted his medical experts and ad-libbed responses to serious questions with no basis in fact, much less science. He has suggested, over and over and over, that tests are not a crucial part of this response when every single expert says they are. He has used the briefings to celebrate corporations — like Tyson Foods — that haven’t provided their employees adequate protection. He has accused medical professionals of stealing supplies.

Trump’s derailments of the public health response are in no way an “occasional” thing. They happen daily.

Which is why it’s all the more irresponsible — in providing decent advice to go show the human cost of this tragedy (which would entail dedicating the time spent showing Trump’s briefing to showing those human interest stories) — that Smith dismisses the import of fact-checking, of the kind that CNN’s Daniel Dale and Vox’s Aaron Rupar do in real time.

But if the cable networks want an alternative to the briefings, they can get out of the studio and back to what first made TV news so powerful — not fact-checking, but emotionally powerful imagery of human suffering.

During Katrina, for instance, “the power of CNN was having an army of cameras and correspondents all over the Gulf, showing the brutal human and economic toll split-screened against the anemic assurances of the Bush administration,” Mr. Hamby, a former CNN staff member, recalled. “It was crippling.”

Virtually every media outlet has published at least one story emphasizing the main lesson from the 1918 flu: that leaders need to tell the truth, most importantly to convince people to comply with public health guidelines over time. Here’s the version of that argument Smith’s NYT published, written by John Barry, who wrote The Great Influenza.

That brings us back to the most important lesson of 1918, one that all the working groups on pandemic planning agreed upon: Tell the truth. That instruction is built into the federal pandemic preparedness plans and the plan for every state and territory.

In 1918, pressured to maintain wartime morale, neither national nor local government officials told the truth. The disease was called “Spanish flu,” and one national public-health leader said, “This is ordinary influenza by another name.” Most local health commissioners followed that lead. Newspapers echoed them. After Philadelphia began digging mass graves; closed schools, saloons and theaters; and banned public gatherings, one newspaper even wrote: “This is not a public health measure. There is no cause for alarm.”

Trust in authority disintegrated, and at its core, society is based on trust. Not knowing whom or what to believe, people also lost trust in one another. They became alienated, isolated. Intimacy was destroyed. “You had no school life, you had no church life, you had nothing,” a survivor recalled. “People were afraid to kiss one another, people were afraid to eat with one another.” Some people actually starved to death because no one would deliver food to them.

Society began fraying — so much that the scientist who was in charge of the armed forces’ division of communicable disease worried that if the pandemic continued its accelerating for a few more weeks, “civilization could easily disappear from the face of the earth.”

The few places where leadership told the truth had a different experience. In San Francisco, the mayor and business, labor and medical leaders jointly signed a full-page ad that read in huge all-caps type, “Wear a Mask and Save Your Life.” They didn’t know that masks offered little protection, but they did know they trusted the public. The community feared but came together. When schools closed, teachers volunteered as ambulance drivers, telephone operators, food deliverers.

Compliance today has been made vastly more difficult by the White House, echoed by right-wing media, minimizing the seriousness of this threat. That seemed to change on Monday. But will President Trump stick to his blunt message of Monday? Will his supporters and Rush Limbaugh’s listeners self-quarantine if called upon? Or will they reject it as media hype and go out and infect the community?

This is not a hoax.

Telling the truth is a life or death issue during a pandemic. An early study even suggests that Hannity — one of the most important players in Trump’s echo chamber — encouraged his watchers to sustain behaviors that could get them killed.

And in recent days, Trump has repeatedly undermined the advice of his experts, lying about the social distancing of rent-a-mobs challenging shut-downs, and magnifying those who say this virus is, indeed, a hoax.

You cannot separate Trump’s COVID rallies from the public health story. Because his rallies — especially the lies he tells — are a menace to public health.

Update: Here’s Charles Blow’s op-ed arguing the same point.

61 replies
  1. OldTulsaDude says:

    “[T]hey should cover them as what they are, a political campaign…”

    No, this is wrong. They are political advertisements and as such the Trump campaign should have to foot the bill. After all, isn’t that capitalism in action? Or is the invisible hand pricing the value of these things: worthless.

  2. Peterr says:

    But if the cable networks want an alternative to the briefings, they can get out of the studio and back to what first made TV news so powerful — not fact-checking, but emotionally powerful imagery of human suffering.

    Uh, Ben? That powerful imagery is the very definition of fact-checking.

    If you want to complain about the way in which folks conduct their fact checking, go right ahead. But don’t dismiss the activity of checking facts, unless you’re going to get out of the “media columnist” business. You’re making it appear that you don’t seem to grasp the very basics of your job.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Form over substance on a scale typical of Donald Trump. Mr. Smith should go to Washington and take over as Mr. Trump’s press secretary. It wouldn’t pay as well as the NYT, but at least the lying about lying would be part of his job rather than an example of his not doing it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s fine for television news to follow Hitchcock’s dictum and tell their stories with pictures – properly annotated. Words are harder for the mind to grasp and have less impact. But Smith’s advice shifts the burden of truth-telling from Trump to the media. Awkward in normal times, it is reprehensible now. If Smith’s aim is to excuse Trump’s failings, he should stop being a dilettante and join his campaign.

    • Badger Robert says:

      The real story is about what happens to you or your family member if they are transferred to ICU and concentrated oxygen is not enough to sustain them. I suppose it will only happen retrospectively, perhaps a Covid/19 equivalent to The Deerhunter. TV journalists are not capable of that level of discernment. They flinch.

  3. Wm. Boyce says:

    I think the creature is not doing his re-election campaign any good w/his daily, unhinged rants. In fact his craziness is on full display, very possibly changing minds of otherwise unaware people who might vote. A number of stories have mentioned sources from within the administration and the campaign who would really like to see him shut up, but that’s not possible when you are a three-year-old sociopath.

    • Wm. Boyce says:

      And here’s a longtime supporter of the creature:

      “Piers Morgan has been a strong and steady voice of support for Donald Trump since he took office, but the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed that.

      Here’s what he had to say on CNN on Sunday:

      ‘All that is required from the president in those moments, and any world leader, frankly, they have to be calm, show authority, they have to be honest, they have to be accurate, entirely factual with what they’re telling the people and they have to have an ability to show empathy… On almost every level of that, Donald Trump at the moment is failing the American people.’
      Morgan, who once won Trump’s television show “Celebrity Apprentice” and has been praised several times on the president’s Twitter feed over the years, went on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” segment just days after he criticized “King Trump” in a column.

      Morgan said that he still considers Trump a friend but that he could no longer hold his tongue amid the “mounting horror” that are the daily White House briefings.

      “He’s turning these briefings into a self-aggrandizing, self-justifying, overly defensive, politically partisan — almost like a rally to him,” Morgan said. “Trump’s ratings are falling, and the reason for that is — he needs to understand this — they’re falling because people don’t trust him.”

      That’s what an ally says? I’m hopeful for November.

      The good people of Wisconsin have just learned that there are seven diagnosed cases of Covid-19 related to the primary election. Now they’re trying to track down voters exposed to these unfortunates. Republicans would rather eat their young than lose power.

  4. BobCon says:

    The big media’s pretense that the audience for Trump’s lies is neatly segregated from their own audience is wrong. And they know it. In this era of microtracking, they know how much traffic they get from right wingers, and it’s not trivial.

    The reality is that Fox viewers also read NY Times stories and listen to NPR. Not only is there some direct overlap between audiences, a huge amount of traffic is driven when stories are shared by third parties.

    And Ben Smith knows this! It was literally a major part of Buzzfeed’s business plan from the beginning.

    What happens is that right wingers find enormous confirmation for their beliefs when they get confirmation from the NY Times or NPR. When Maggie Haberman fluffs Kushner, it goes out in newsfeeds and shares and reinforces all of the messaging of Fox and OANN and the rest.

    Smith wants to deny the dynamic that happens when the regular media picks up on cues from the right because these stories are a key source of content for the media. It’s all packaged with reports and talking heads ready for publication and broadcast.

    And increasingly right wingers are a part of the club of reporters and producers and editors. Severing the link to GOP propaganda means pushing back against its advocates within their own organizations. Again, Smith knows this. He sees it every day.

  5. dude says:

    In the old days when only 3 networks shared the airwaves, news broadcasts were limited to 30 minutes. Actually, I can recall when it was less. But anchors and reporters would show a still frame of the President and read about 3 sentence synopsis of the President’s remarks. Press conferences were edited down to critical question-critical answer. If there were a contradictory or contrary point of view, it too would be summarized in about the same amount of sentences. I really don’t see any harm in reverting to that format. It is true the reporters would have to re-learn how to ask pertinent and focal questions. I am not sure the President would thrive on that sort of thing–he’d rant, he’d play to Fox, he’d tweet—no different from now. But I bet if you gave Joe Biden equal time in this manner of reporting, he’d remember how it was done and be more effective.

    • biff murphy says:

      are you talking about the “fairness doctrine” –
      a former federal policy in the US requiring television and radio broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance.
      If so I agree

      • dude says:

        I am. And I am also talking about separating news from entertainment. Cable TV, as it used to be known as, is not under the same obligation as media that uses the public air waves as I understand it. Cable news was classified as entertainment and hence obtained exemption from the fairness doctrine—I recall that debate in the Reagan era I think—or maybe before, in the early CNN days when was unique in trying to present ‘objective’ news in the midst of all the movies and home-shopping stuff. Eventually they had to become more entertainment just to fill their self-promoted 24 hrs a day news diet. “Content is king” said Sumner Redstone, but he wasn’t talking about “hard news”. Stations still have to file annually an FCC document indicating the public finds the use of the public airwaves acceptable. I don’t think anybody on ‘cable’ has to do anything like that.

    • Rugger9 says:

      “The purpose of power is power.”

      I see TX Lt Gov Patrick said there are things more important than living. What should be said to every one of these jerks, real time: “You first”.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Two issues should be at the top of any critic’s review of the current episodes of the Donald Trump Show. First, is the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the United States. Second, is Donald Trump’s management of both problems.

    How well is he doing? He’s failing – badly, blindly, cruelly. Nothing new there: Trump does it all the time, it’s the hallmark of his career. The other hallmark is how he hides it, at least from himself. One minute, he will claim that what he has failed at is not part of his job. The next – as if he were Narcissus, looking at his own image – he will say that he is doing brilliantly, he’s the best in the world.

    That’s a pattern a media critic should spot and make the heart of her criticism. But the obvious is not for Mr. Smith. In fact, he seems as unwilling to see it as his employer. The one thing Donald Trump does not do occasionally is lie. He lies about every topic, most especially his own performance. Ben Smith’s unwillingness to see that is a distraction worthy of Donald Trump. What drives me to distraction is why the New York Times puts up with it.

  7. Vicks says:

    IMHO the problem is Trump has exploited the entertainment aspect of politics.
    People are tuning in to these covid rallies to hear Trump fight with reporters and get the sound bites they need to expand this freak show into their own lives.
    Look at the images of those protesters. When do you think was the last time that they felt so alive?
    It would be hypocritical for me not to acknowledge that the same thing has been happening with Trump’s opposition. They are watching closely and as soon as they see a lie they are running back for confirmation from their own herd.
    That’s not problem solving.
    Yes, Trump is a menace. His words are reckless and dangerous as hell but it is important to ask ourselves what is everyone’s role in giving them their power?

  8. harpie says:


    1] https://twitter.com/glennwsmith/status/1252057980964610050
    10:14 PM · Apr 19, 2020

    This is a photo of President Johnson in 1968 about the time American deaths in Vietnam reached 40,000, the number of Americans dead so far from COVID-19. [PHOTO]

    2] https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1252021726818570240
    7:50 PM · Apr 19, 2020

    [TRUMP]: “Oh, more than [40,000] … good … you just don’t have the sense to understand what’s going on” — a sarcastic Trump isn’t happy with @JDiamond1 after he corrects his incorrect statements about the number of Americans who have died from coronavirus [“Good. Correct me. Correct me. I’m really glad you corrected me, CNN.] [VIDEO]

    • Badger Robert says:

      But in the US, the media cannot stay focused on reality for 10 minutes.
      People are dead, Donald. But will any reporter say it and walk away?

    • harpie says:

      i have to say I have no idea what is happening in that photo of Johnson…but there is no doubt in my mind that he could be sadly pondering the loss of so many young lives in Viet Nam.

      It would never occur to me to imagine that’s what Trump would be doing.

  9. oomph cavilrest says:

    back to what first made TV news so powerful — not fact-checking, but emotionally powerful imagery of human suffering

    ahh, 2005, back when television news was fresh and new, and we were first learning of the power of imagery.

  10. gmoke says:

    from Albert Camus’ The Plague:

    Il ne s’agit pas d’héroïsme dans tout cela. Il s’agit d’honnêteté. C’est une idée qui peut faire rire, mais la seule façon de lutter contre la peste, c’est l’honnêteté.
    “It’s not about heroism in all this. It’s a matter of honesty. That’s an idea which can make people smile, but the only means of fighting against a plague is honesty.”

    l’honnêteté – honesty, integrity

  11. Krisy Gosney says:

    I appreciate this blog so much. I call it my ‘smart blog’ for the quality of the posts and comments. I wish I had some great observation but I just have questions. Wasn’t one of the things that most everyone agreed was crucial for the rise of Trump during the campaign was that the press failed in their handling of Trump’s constant lying? So isn’t what Smith is encouraging a repeat of that? As for covering human interest stories and Trumps daily rallies, media outlets can walk and chew gum at the same time, right? Also, due to the infectious nature of the virus, the sick can’t be interviewed so should the media then report on loved ones who are worried about the possible death of their sick loved ones? (Seems a cruel thing to impose on vulnerable people.). Should media do public interest stories on seemingly healthy people wanting to stop social distancing at this precarious time? (And not report on the lack of a coherent and factual national policy from Trump that is mostly the fuel for this.). These are mostly rhetorical questions. But should they be rhetorical for someone actually in the media like Smith? How about a story that desperately needs to be reported on? The multiple ways in which each state is underreporting the Covid-19 sick and dead. And how and why? Sorry for a ‘comment’ full of questions.

  12. madwand says:

    Halfway through John Barry’s work, it does not disappoint and educates more importantly. Moreover it’s pretty easy to see parallels with today’s pandemic. Most important is that leaders didn’t want to give you the straight poop It details how the German offensive of 1918 petered out because of the Spanish flu (it probably started in Kansas, Fort Riley) but it affected all engaged forces and was a factor in the armistice. Governments lied their asses off to maintain morale the press did not cover the pandemic other than in Spain, and it was troop movements which spread the disease.

    Today DOD has restricted movements, a good thing, but forbids commanders from being accurate in reporting Covid numbers or about what is happening in their commands, a bad thing since we are not at war at least in the legal sense. Training has been shortened, curtailed or canceled depending on the service. In John Barry’s book he relates how commanders at the highest levels were given the best medical advice of the day. But in the run up to the war and actual conflict itself, most of it was disregarded, and that similarity is also pretty easy to see in modern day actions towards the commander of the TR . Medical people at the time wanted to put a dent in such facts as twice as many soldiers died of disease as opposed to KIA in the Civil War and is endemic of most wars. It was a start.

  13. Alan Charbonneau says:

    I enjoy the deeply thoughtful approach taken by this blog. Thinking through the issues is better than having all of the thinking done for you by wherever talking head you watch.

    This is a good article by Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, and a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. She studies the interaction between digital technology, artificial intelligence, and society.

    She gives a broader perspective on the virus than many news reports, especially the way in which we think/thought about it and the complexities involved in getting people tho think past the easy statistics:


    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, Alan.

      I don’t personally have much faith in Tufekci’s work after her call to Democrats to chip in money to help the North Carolina GOP after one of their offices burned in October 2016. This is the same state in which the GOP gerrymandered representation based on race, wrote voting regulations to suppress black voters, stole and destroyed Democrats’ absentee ballots — just, no. Do not ask the suppressed to help their oppressors. Don’t ask the underdog to forfeit assets to help the cheat. And definitely don’t do so before all the facts are in.

      This entire graf from her piece in The Atlantic bugs the shit out of me:

      For people stuck in asystemic thinking, all this may well have seemed like a small, faraway threat. If one merely looked at the R0, the virus wasn’t outrageously contagious. The number was similar to seasonal flu, but nothing explosive like measles, which has an R0 of 12 to 18—one ill person can infect another 12 to 18 people. For an asystemic thinker, it probably didn’t look that deadly, either. The mortal threat was disproportionately to the elderly, who already succumb to colds and influenza at much higher rates than younger, healthier people. The case-fatality rate (CFR), or the percent of infected people who die, for younger people seemed fairly low, perhaps comparable to seasonal influenza, which kills about 0.1 percent of its victims, exacting a toll in the tens of thousands in the United States alone. On January 29, the known global death total for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was still under 200, less than a weekend’s worth of traffic accidents in the United States, let alone the flu. And to an asystemic thinker, the threat seemed remote, unfolding as it was in Wuhan, a place that many people outside China may not have heard of.

      While she’s discussing what she saw as flaccid response by political and STEM communities, her own observation is absolutely bonkers. Compare what she wrote to what Ed Yong said about SARS-CoV-2’s R0 in The Atlantic on January 28, a little more than 10 days after the U.S.’s first known case had been seeded in Washington state.

      We didn’t know the R0. WE STILL DON’T KNOW THE R0 because as the WHO Chinese mission report dd. February 16-24 explained succinctly, “It is important to note that transmission dynamics of any outbreak are inherently contextual.” Emphasis mine. The Chinese observed cases of transmission within families in family quarters; they also pointed to nosocomial transmission to health care workers and within densely populated facilities like prisons. But the Chinese did not yet recognize the degree to which contagion grew based on aerosol transmission AND asymptomatic carriers, and therefore did not have an accurate R0 number except within narrow examples.

      I don’t know how she came up with the casual attitude about the early assessment of the CFR because no virologist or epidemiologist I follow was that flippant once they began to see numbers from China. Early on the numbers were multiple times higher than a bad flu season.

      Using asystemic thinking it was obvious China became panicked about the virus when it shut down its biggest single holiday and the biggest single human migration event on a dime. That alone should have given the U.S. and all other countries pause.

      Tufekci is right that we need more systemic thinking, but it requires ALL of us to recognize we didn’t act collectively, cohesively for multiple reasons including the partisanship she casually discounts in her first graf and ignored as part of white supremacy+structural racism in 2016. That partisanship has been heightened deliberately to ensure we do not act collectively; it’s no small part why we didn’t get “the clear and loud warning that a tsunami was about to land on our shores,” because Trump was focused on re-election and not on saving Americans’ lives. Our individual and societal cognitive dissonance still keeps us from recognizing barriers deliberately placed in front of us and Tufekci fails to see them.

      That includes encouraging this disease to continue to burn through the public by lifting quarantines too soon because it affects minorities — who tend to vote Democratic — disproportionately. It’s voter suppression by virus, a fatal poll tax: survive this virus and perhaps you’ll be able to vote. Maybe.

      • madwand says:



        This came out four days ago and there is another study in LA. The authors of the study also wrote an op-ed in the WSJ arguing the same and studied approximately 3300 people in the sampling. The sampling was obtained from facebook volunteers and could be skewed.

        The study is not peer reviewed either and is starting to make MSN coverage. I saw it on MSNBC last night. Please note that a number of scientists and statisticians have not bought into the study. Nevertheless this is gaining traction and I have seen it in financial blogs The major impact is that a larger % of the population is infected, as most of us thought, but the authors use IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) based on calculated values instead of CFR (Case Fatality Rate) calculated on known cases to get a lower death rate. “The Santa Clara team estimated an IFR for the county of 0.1–0.2%, which would equate to about 100 deaths in 48,000-82,000” The actual case count at the time in Santa Clara County was around 1000 with 73 deaths at the time of the study.

        So how should we be evaluating this as layman? There is a difference between CFR and IFR and they are both being used to establish a death rate percentage. Help me out here would appreciate the feedback.

        • greengiant says:

          The infected fatality rate and the case fatality rates arguments have been overrun. Think fatalities per capita. 0.13 percent of the people in Queens are already dead. 3,329 of 2.4 million. 15.6 percent are under 60 in New York state. Another 20 percent between 60 and 69. Not counting survivor side effects.
          Say the infectious ratio of the study is accurate and 450 or so cases reported over 5 days represent 1/50th of 22,250 infectious. That is more than 1 infectious per 100 people per 5 day window in Santa Clara, a county of 1.93 million. That is a slow slog of many 5 day periods before 70 or 90 percent of the county has been infected. It’s a reason to work more like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan. The government can help by using the DPA to increase PPE production and mandating local PPE purchases for the future.

          • madwand says:

            Thanks for the info. I’m not making an argument one way or the other IFR or CFR, and % either raw or per 100,000 is a valid way also. I agree, the government should use the DPA for PPE production and tests as needed.

            It’s easy to see from what I know that the lower number IFR might be one conservatives latch onto but it is a calculated number not a tested number. Big difference. I noted it because it has been latched onto in different blogs. It is not necessarily that liars figure or figures lie, but more a matter of knowledge. There was in fact a lot of push back on the study.

            • Alan Charbonneau says:

              The information about false positives for antibody tests is troubling. I recently spoke to someone who works for a medical device company, and on a recent conference call with several doctors, she asked about how they would screen surgery patients for COVID infection, given the high percentage of false NEGATIVES for COVID tests (30-40% from what I’ve read).

              Most said they were using antibody tests to see if the patient already had the disease to allow them on the surgery schedule.

              I’m not sure what the rate of false POSITIVES of antibody testing is, but if we have issues of determining whether someone has the virus now or had it in the past, that’s a problem.

              For the COVID testing to see if a patient currently has the virus, the false negative problem is not with the tests themselves, but the collection and transport of the samples. I do not have any information on what issues are causing false positives for the antibody tests.

              Yes, we need expansive testing, but is the information reliable enough to give us confidence that the pandemic is being effectively managed? (I am speaking hypothetically about effective management — obviously the Trump administration is botching the crisis badly)

              I’d appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this issue.

        • P J Evans says:

          If people don’t know they have it, or if they have a mild case, and their cases aren’t confirmed, they won’t count in the CFR, though they should.
          This is really an argument for much more testing.

  14. jonf says:

    Yuk yuk. Why should anyone worry about the virus? Except for old folks, it is a non issue. And they have one leg in the grave anyway. It is just a bad cold for most of us. . We gotta work, says those protesters. Yeah, got it.

    But ask someone who got it and recovered. Someone, say, like Brooke Baldwin of CNN. She wrote it down. She recovered, but she suffered too, not exactly a walk in the park. And this virus could affect your health in serious ways going forward, especially your lungs and your heart. Want to take that chance? Too bad you can’t do it without endangering others. But you may get your way and some people will suffer as a result.

    This sort of hypocrisy, ignorance and idiocy is what bothers me while I sit and watch the Orange One blame anyone he can for the pandemic, in particular the democratic governors and their states and praise his own response. Well I am petty sure it is the Blue states that are fucking up. And then I have to listen how his polling is up. Whatever will we do if he gets reelected?

    • RobertJ says:

      One of angles in pushing HCQ may be to generate the illusion that there is an effective treatment. I’ve also wondered whether the delays and other problems in providing tests might have been intended to understate the scale of the problem.

    • timbo says:

      There’s rumors swirling around that it also infects the kidneys and that that significantly contributes to the higher mortality seen in this pandemic.

  15. Tom says:

    What irks me most about Trump’s press briefings is to hear him state repeatedly–and falsely–that (a) he inherited a “broken system”, and (b) no-one could have expected an event such as the COVID-19 pandemic. I know he has been challenged on these lies in the past–for example, by Yamiche Alcindor of PBS–but I wish there could be an informal agreement among the White House press pool that, in any briefing where the President makes these claims, the first reporter called upon the President will ask him why he continues to make these false assertions when there is ample evidence to the contrary.

  16. Callender says:

    Thanks to EW for confirming what I’ve been saying to my social media friends since Trump started these things. I’ve seen every one of them. They are awful. He bullies, he lies, he swaggers, he changes his story from one day to the next, he shows political ads, he shows Andrew Cuomo bragging on him (twice – when the video person screwed it up Trump made him do it again…it was hilarious – to everyone except the video person, I’m sure).

    Trump’s biggest problem is his clear misogyny, as EW points out. Women are watching, dude! Paula Reid, from CBS, got on his last nerve last week, and Weijia Jiang, also from CBS, got him yesterday – and by “got him” I mean asked a pertinent question. Jeremy Diamond, from CNN, is no friend of Don either.

    He actually told Jiang to lower her voice, when she had not raised it. A week or so ago, he clearly hated the guff he was getting from Yamiche Alcindor; guff being, in this case a logical, cogent pertinent question. The horror! Paula Reid was spot on, and so was Weijia Jiang. Smart women – all three.
    Pew polling shows him going down. He’s going down every day he has one of these things, whatever you call them, because thousands and thousands of women see them, and when you multiply the social media aspect, it’s millions. He’s giving away votes 7 days a week. The misogyny fairly leaps off the screen, the lies are self evident, and the swagger is pure Mussolini. The cliched hole theory says when you’re in one stop digging, and Trump is doing yeoman’s spade work.

    Uncle Joe should stay in his basement, and let Captain Queeg continue to tell us about those strawberries and his geometric logic – one day at a time.

    • P J Evans says:

      One person on Twitter suggested that when Trmp asks reporters who they are or where they’re from, the response should be something like “Will that change your answer?”

      (I remember my mother used something like that, if we’d ask what was for dinner: “Are you going to eat somewhere else if you don’t like the answer?”)

  17. Ollie says:

    HAPPY 4/20 DAY! I am an addict. I am in recovery. What kind of recovery you might ask (Rayne, lol) FROM TRUMP and his lying ass press marathons. The only fun part is when he takes questions. Fun? Okay like fun watching a horror movie…..slashers. So I won’t go on. I wonder if he’s going to be asked about all those oil reserves he paid $30/barrel and now they’re all below $0. Makes me think old stupid Jared was advising him to do it since he always pays high dollar for stuff. I sure hope Michael C. book brings out a lot of the NY stuff he wouldn’t go into. Man. I have to purge my heart cause all I keep doing is thinking of ways trump will squirm on a daily basis. He’s too stupid to know it tho. Okay.
    Glad you wrote this today Marcy. Reading just the facts madam, just the facts, helps me to emotionally pull it back together. Lord I’ve gotten nasty in revenge thinking……I didn’t even do that in relationships, lol.

    I pray to god all those stupid people protesting for opening up are maybe too sick to vote this November. I want no deaths………just put them out for November. Then they can go back to being invisible.

  18. Leah says:

    If you mean the bully reporters
    who don’t ask question to get us information but ask gotcha questions then I agree. If you mean the lies misinformation and manipulated information from reporters, news outlets ect then I agee with you. These people are horrible.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Leah.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      I’m letting this drive-by comment through because I’m bored and could use a target.

      The overwhelming number of reporters who cover the White House aren’t bullies. They are bullied by Trump and his team; they aren’t figuring out how to cover Trump in a way which reveals and informs the public about Trump’s performance while not furthering Trump’s propagandistic aims. These briefings have little usable content about the pandemic for the public — they don’t even reassure them things may be under control — because the briefings are used as Trump’s grievance venting opportunities while experts are either muzzled or they prevaricate to keep Trump from acting out further.

      If you’re going to make these kinds of statements here, you’d better cite examples including links. Which reporters are bullies? When did they bully? Provide a link to a written or video report showing their bullying.

      I have my doubts you’ll ever provide this evidence, though.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Rayne said, “. . . I’m bored and could use a target.”

        Alright then, but . . . Would I have to hold still? Or could I be a moving target? You know . . . while running in a serpentine pattern . . . like Trump’s tongue.

        If only I were a bully reporter, then the first gotcha question I would ask Trump is:

        “Why didn’t you start the mitigation effort the moment you found out that the CDC testing kits were useless because of contamination?”

        “Why sit around waiting for ‘the numbers’ to come in when you already knew that the contaminated CDC testing kits were utterly useless for the purpose of bringing in any numbers at all??”

        “After all, the contamination of the CDC testing kits was totally an accident. Wasn’t it???”

        Bonus Round: “To how many Governors–Democrat or Republican–did you forward and share classified information from the President’s Daily Briefings on the novel coronavirus and when did you begin cluing those Governors in on the vital national security interests of The United States with respect to the COVID 19 pandemic?”

    • vicks says:

      That’s a serious accusation, can you give an example or two of a gotcha question?
      I see reporters trying to get a straight answer after a shit ton of misdirects and lies on the most serious issue this country is facing, and you see a reporter being “horrible’
      I have no problem being wrong, and I freely admit I am more than a bit biased when it comes to Trump and truthiness, I like to think I have an open mind, so in all seriousness, what are you seeing that I’m not?

    • Rugger9 says:

      As they say in the South, bless your heart, “Leah” and I hope you were paid up front. DJT has a habit of stiffing his contractors and other servants.

  19. e.a.f. says:

    what I can’t figure out is why Trump and some of his ilk haven’t gotten a good case of COVID 19. like really. its not that I want him to die, just be put on a ventilator for a few months to shut him up. It might give the country a chance. At this rate I don’t have much hope for this disease to burn itself out.

    • madwand says:

      Wondered about that also, it seems they all have been exposed and certainly they stood next to each other a bunch. The highest guy in the administration is one of Pence staffers as far as I know. Maybe they’re quaffing chloroquine by the gallon, who knows.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Having failed at everything else, Miller-Trump return to their favorite pleasure – blaming little brown furriners for their problems. As if in answer to Dr. Szell’s question, “Is it safe,” they propose to reinvigorate their already failed immigration ban. Their purpose is not, they claim, to shore up their failing bid for re-election. It is to make sure we don’t catch Covid-19. Like King Canute’s idiot cousin, they are sure this time they can stop the tide from coming in.

    Trump tried that gambit with his earlier ban on travel from China. Like that failure, this one won’t stop tens of thousands of Americans from traveling, congregating, and spreading contagion. Hundreds of thousands will get sick as Trump “liberates” America from the worse contagion of competent Democratic governance. Thousands will die owing to their arrogance and ambition. Unleash Hell! remains their motto: it’s the only thing they’re good at.


    • vvv says:

      Colbert tonight quipped that the immigration ban’s upside is that it will keep potential immigrants safer. He went on to a metaphor of a petri dish on the floor next to a urinal in a Times Square station …

  21. Vinniegambone says:

    When Trump lies about it,it then warrants and justifies media’s adoption of the term TRUMP’S VIRUS when referring to covid 19 in America as opposed to the Virus health officials talk about. Ask him if he’s offended now that people are referring to it as Trump ‘ s Virus ?

    • errant aesthete says:

      Seems The Atlantic is getting good representation on this thread.

      *What Really Doomed America” by Zeynep Tufekci and “What’s So Hard to Understand About What Trump Said” by Quinta Jurecic & Benjamin Wittes

      So why not take a look at this one:

      “We Are Living in a Failed State” by George Packer, author, staff writer

      Arguments can be made on preparedness or lack thereof, competence or optics, reasoned deliberation or policy on the fly, measured and sustainable goals or strategy by instinct, placement by experience or choice by nepotism or campaign contribution, appointment on intellect or loyalty to the chosen one, but Trump and company along with a complicit party and a deeply embedded philosophy in small government and total rule made an infinite and chaotic number of questionable decisions in three years time, that in the aggregate formed the defining moment in this country’s history when COVID-19 and the US collided unannounced for the very first time.

      As a country, we were not only unprepared to meet the pandemic of our time, we couldn’t even figure out if it was real. And our leadership certainly wasn’t going to clue us in with a presidential election in November. As George Packer tells it: “The Coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.”


  22. Rugger9 says:

    Apparently Bill Barr told Hugh Hewitt that he wants to force reopening the states, which undercuts tDJT’s plans to pin the blame on the governors if the COVID-19 cases spike afterward. If I were any of the governors I would make AG Barr file all of the cases.

    I thought he was the resident evil genius?

    Also, does anyone else believe that a prime motivation for the IRS’s deadline rollout last night was to avoid having to pay out this year with some “justification” to back them up? Call me cynical, but rushed deadlines like that usually hide something and we already know several of the programs have run dry.

    • P J Evans says:

      He seems to have lost track of the Constitution explicitly leaving things like that to the states.

  23. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy. Certainly agree with your last line: “You cannot separate Trump’s COVID rallies from the public health story. Because his rallies — especially the lies he tells — are a menace to public health.”

    No separation of Bully in Chief and Liar in Chief. Blended as one.

  24. Geoguy says:

    Has anyone seen or commented on this AP story posted yesterday by Marilynn Marchione? “More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study.” (hydroxychloroquine)

Comments are closed.