Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show Thursday night, Donald Trump Jr. was asked about Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s recommendation that anyone who attends a campaign rally for the President self-quarantine for two weeks.
He responded this way (bolding is mine): “I mean, give me a break, Laura, the reality is this … if you look, I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data because I kept hearing about new infections, but I was like, ‘Well, why aren’t they talking about deaths?’ Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing.”
The number is 1,004, according to the New York Times. As in, 1,004 Americans died of coronavirus on Thursday. That’s 1,004 people with families, friends and colleagues who will never get to talk to them, hug them or see them ever again.
And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.
That Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t seem to grasp that reality — or doesn’t care — is, in its way, perfectly fitting. From the start of the pandemic, President Donald Trump has purposely downplayed the threat posed to Americans by the virus, pushed quack cures, insisted — contra facts — that the country is “rounding the corner” on the disease and promised a vaccine that has yet to arrive.
On Thursday, hours before his son made his own insensitive comments about the virus’ mortality rate, the President himself did the same.
“You know the bottom line, though?” Trump told a Florida rally crowd. “You’re gonna get better. You’re gonna get better. If I can get better, anybody can get better. And I got better fast.” (Read this for all the reasons that’s not true.)
And that all comes in the same week that this exchange occurred between CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley:
Camerota: Well, let’s talk about acting responsibly. I mean, just again with Wisconsin, are you at all concerned given that there has been an outbreak in the vice president’s orbit of people around him and that there is currently an outbreak — I mean, hospitals in Wisconsin are near capacity. And so is there — does that give you any pause or the vice president any pause about going there and holding a big rally?
Gidley: No, it doesn’t. The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him, they’ve obviously contact-traced and have come to the conclusion it’s fine for him to be out on the campaign trail.
Right. Gidley added: “The American people have the right under the First Amendment to peaceably assemble, too.”
This is an administration that sees the entire virus through the lens of the President’s political fate. A majority of the country believes he has mishandled Covid-19 and so, in order to win, President Trump needs people to be thinking less about the virus. And he (and his team) believe the way to do that is to minimize the numbers of deaths while making false promises about the current status of the virus.
(To be clear: We are not “rounding the corner” on the virus. On Thursday alone, more than 88,000 cases were reported in the United States — the largest number of cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic in the United States.)
The problem with the argument being made by the President and his son — aside from it being patently false — is that it endangers Americans. Because if you only listened to Donald Trump and Don Jr., and there are people who do, you would be under the deeply mistaken impression that Covid-19 is not a real threat to you and that, even if you did get sick, you will simply get better.
And you might! In fact, you likely would! But more than 228,000 Americans haven’t gotten better. And to dismiss their deaths as “almost nothing” is not just tone-deaf, it’s heartless.