Donald Trump doesn't even agree with himself on the pandemic.
It was the latest in a growing series of direct contradictions in Trump's public comments about the pandemic.
Was the coronavirus a real threat?
As the coronavirus swept through China and began to reach other countries in January and February, Trump repeatedly played it down as nothing to worry about. "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine," he said on Jan. 22.
But on March 17, Trump claimed, "I've always known this is a — this is a real — this is a pandemic. I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic." A day later, he tweeted that he "always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning."
The quality and value of coronavirus testing
Trump bragged on March 6 that America's system of testing for the coronavirus was great. "The tests are all perfect," he claimed. On May 12, he tweeted that America's testing is "the BEST in the world, by FAR." He even offered to provide rapid tests to those in Congress "returning to Capital Hill" [sic] in early May.
But on May 15, he told reporters, "It could be the testing's, frankly, overrated? Maybe it is overrated. But whatever they start yelling, we want more, we want more. You know, they always say we want more, we want more because they don't want to give you credit."
Who is responsible for testing?
Trump repeatedly told the nation that it was not the federal government's job to ensure widespread coronavirus testing. "Testing is local. You can't have it both ways," he said at an April briefing. "Testing is a local thing. It's very important. It's great. But it's a local thing."
A day earlier, he had said it was up to state governors to "find and unlock the vast unused testing capacity that exists in their states."
On May 11, Trump hosted a White House celebration of the "unprecedented testing capacity developed by the United States — the most advanced and robust testing system anywhere in the world, by far."
He claimed credit at the event for the fact that the United States had conducted 10 million coronavirus tests, which he said was "nearly double the number of any other country," bragging that his administration had "marshaled every resource at our nation's disposal" to increase testing.
Did he shut down the economy?
At an April 6 press briefing he said there was a "constitutional problem" with such an order, given the principles of federalism. "Legally I can," he claimed, "but morally, I believe in our Constitution, much more so than most people."
Four days later, when he was asked specifically about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' refusal to close his state, Trump said, "I like to allow governors to make decisions without overruling them, because from a constitutional standpoint, that's the way it should be done."
But on May 3, he told Fox News that he had made the call.
"And then, one day they said, 'Sir, we're going to have to close it,'" Trump claimed. "I said, 'What are you talking about, closing it?' Nobody ever heard that. 'We’re going have to close it.' And we did the right thing. We saved — I think we saved millions of lives."
Five days later, he again praised himself, saying, "We had to close it down. It was an artificial closing. We had to just close it down. Never happened — a thing like that never happened before. We did the right thing."
Who is in charge of reopening?
Instead, Trump told governors that he would support them in making that decision. "You're going to call your own shots," he told the governors in a conference call. "We're going to be standing alongside of you."
On Friday, Trump announced that he was directing all governors "to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now." "If there's any question, they're gonna have to call me but they're not gonna be successful in that call," he promised, adding that if they did not, he would "override" their decisions.
Is social distancing important?
On March 14, after weeks of downplaying the coronavirus threat, Trump endorsed social distancing efforts in a tweet that simply said, "SOCIAL DISTANCING!"
Five days later, he tweeted the phrase again, along with a public service video showing members of his coronavirus task force — Dr. Deborah Birx, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Dr. Anthony Fauci — explaining why it's important.
But even as virus continued to spread rapidly across the country, by March 23 he urged the country to abandon the practice and reopen quickly. "America will again and soon be open for business — very soon," Trump said at a news conference. "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself."
On May 18, he tweeted, "REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!"
The death toll
On April 20, Trump bragged that, thanks to his response to the pandemic, the death toll would be between 50,000 and 60,000 Americans.
"But we did the right thing, because if we didn't do it, you would have had a million people, a million and a half people, maybe 2 million people dead. Now, we're going toward 50- , I'm hearing, or 60,000 people," he told reporters. "That's at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We — we could end up at 50 to 60. Okay? It's horrible. If we didn't do what we did, we would have had, I think, a million people, maybe 2 million people, maybe more than that."
In early May, he increased the number, telling Fox News, "We're going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people."
On Tuesday, as nation's death toll neared 100,000, with no sign of stopping, Trump bragged on Twitter, "For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn't done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number. That's 15 to 20 times more than we will lose. I shut down entry from China very early!"
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.