Editorial: Eric Trump’s New COVID-19 “Hoax”: Lockdowns

In February 2020, as COVID-19 was gaining its foothold on America, the Trump administration was circulating various narratives vilifying the Democrats for their “role” in relation to the virus. In addition to the idea that the coronavirus crisis was overblown, or that it was a hoax, one of the predominant Trumpian claims was that the Democrats were hoping the virus would kill millions of people and destroy the economy so that Donald Trump would look bad and lose the 2020 election.

Now, in May, with 1.5 million cases and almost 90,000 deaths in the U.S., variations on this absurd line of thinking are still being pushed by some Trump allies. On Fox News this past Saturday, Eric Trump put forth a new version, accusing Democrats of “milking” the COVID-19 lockdowns put in place by state and local governments to help slow the spread of the virus. Eric Trump’s narrative about the lockdowns—and the story he wants the Trump base to believe—is that the Democrats are promoting the lockdowns in an effort to keep people at home and stop Donald Trump’s campaign rallies (another dastardly Dem plot to keep Trump from being re-elected).

“They think they are taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time,” said Eric Trump. “You watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and Nov. 3. And guess what, after Nov. 3 coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”

In the way that some people who are ignorant of facts (like the fact that the coronavirus is a worldwide pandemic, and not just an American problem that will magically disappear in a day) but think they’ve slyly uncovered something sneaky, Eric Trump continued, “The Democrats are trying to deprive him (Donald Trump) of his greatest asset, which is that the American people love him, the fact that he’s relatable, the fact that he can go out there and draw massive crowds. Joe Biden can’t get 10 people in a room. My father is getting 50,000 in a room.” (Could not getting 10 people in a room have to do with the fact that Joe Biden is following those divisive lockdown guidelines?)

“And they want to do everything they can to stop it,” continued Eric. “So make no mistake, to a lot of them, this is a very cognizant strategy that they’re trying to employ. It’s no different than the nonsense they’re trying to throw into the Hope act, it’s no different than the mail-in voting they want to do in all of these places, its no different from their wanting illegal immigrants to vote in our country. It is a cognizant strategy.”

And as Eric Trump passes off what he’s saying as the truth to the Trump base tuned in to Fox News, the Trump base listens, repeats it, stretches it, posts memes about it on social media, and crowds into bars, restaurants, and churches to show that they’re not going to be taken in by this Democrat conspiracy to take down the president.

Likening media coverage of Trump’s impeachment, “the Russia thing,” and the “Ukraine scandal” to their criticism of the Administration’s (non)handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eric Trump called the media the Democratic party’s “propaganda arm.”

“They’re doing it for one reason,” he said. “They want to hurt Trump.”

What Eric Trump is saying is that Americans, Democrat or not, think the way the Trumps do. He is implying that Democrats, and state and local governments whom Trump believes are against him, are so self-serving and so lacking in empathy that their only focus right now, during a pandemic, is on taking down Donald Trump. State and local governments haven’t put in place social distancing and lockdown guidelines to help slow the spread of a deadly virus or protect the vulnerable, they just want to keep people away from Donald Trump’s rallies.

Does Eric Trump believe himself when he says these things? It doesn’t matter, because what’s important is that the base does.

Most Americans—most humans, if they’re not malignant narcissists—are shocked by this idea. And because it takes a malignant narcissist to be able to see any reasonableness behind such a motivation, the idea that Eric Trump and his ilk expect their base to believe such a suggestion says more about them than about the Democrats.

The U.S. leads the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. But Eric Trump, like his dad, wants to distract Trump’s base away from these frightening facts. The Trumps are willing to put the health, safety, and lives of Americans aside and make it all about Donald Trump’s re-election.

Using the base’s magical inciting vocabulary (“tyranny,” “personal liberty,” “communism/socialism,” etc.) Trump stirs them up to oppose the lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines. Told over and over again that the lockdowns are political, the base focuses its concern to Donald Trump’s re-election, disregarding caution to assemble in large gatherings where they’ll talk, sneeze, breathe, and cough possibly viral droplets onto each other.

Perhaps what’s even more troubling than the idea that a leader would encourage supporters put their health at risk by protesting guidelines put in place to keep them safe, is the fact that there are Americans who are willing to throw their lives on the line for a leader who has repeatedly shown, even by his very encouragement of their opposition to lockdowns, that he couldn’t care less whether they do live or die.

Eric Trump Says Coronavirus Will “Magically Go Away” After 2020 Election | Reflect [2020-05-17]

Draconian shutdowns ‘hurting Trump’s chance of re-election’ | Sky News Australia [2020-05-02]

Editorial: In Donald Trump’s World, Truth Has Consequences

Since Donald Trump’s handling (or non-handling) of the COVID-19 threat in the U.S. has gone so terribly wrong, he would like to just make it all go away so that it doesn’t threaten his reelection. It’s not that he cares so much about making the virus itself disappear—let’s face it, he clearly doesn’t care who out here dies from it, just as long as there are still enough voters left to reelect him—it’s that he wants his bad ratings to go away.

But truth won’t cooperate with what Donald Trump needs it to be, so Trump has taken to creating his own narrative— one that depends on altering or denying facts, and on eliminating or squelching truth-tellers.

There’s Trump’s gaslighting about the facts surrounding the pandemic in the U.S. (and his “that’s not what I said” gaslighting tactics to gaslight his gaslighting, when necessary). Although Americans can easily fact-check Trump’s claims, Trump knows that his base will take as fact what comes out of his mouth, and will consider his backing by right-wing news pundits as all the “fact-checking” they need.

Trump has claimed multiple times that the U.S. has conducted more tests than “every other country combined.” Trump knows that this is a lie, but he also knows that it doesn’t matter, because, to his supporters, presenting them with his version of reality—makes it their reality.

Though by count, we’ve conducted more tests than some countries combined, we are nowhere near the number that would make us the coronavirus testing world record-holder. As of late April, statistics from several sources, including Worldometer and Our World in Data, estimate that the U.S. has conducted between 5.59 and 5.7 million tests. According to Worldometer, the number of tests run in Russia, Germany, and Italy alone totals around 6.72 million— so, more than what the U.S. has run.

And then there was the praise from Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, about the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it a “great success story.” Trump himself has called it a “spectacular job.” As if simply saying it makes it so. As if repeating it erases the fact that in two months’ time, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has climbed to greater than one million—more than one-third of the number of cases in the entire world; the number of U.S.deaths has reached well over 60,000; and health care providers are still waiting for needed testing, equipment, and supplies.

Since Donald Trump knows that not everyone will let him get away with gaslighting alone to change the facts, however, he has also taken to eliminating key officials who pose a problem for the Trump coronavirus narrative. Woe are science, data, and public officials when they don’t support Donald Trump’s required version of the truth.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House Coronavirus response team has presented the reality of COVID-19 to Americans, he has appeared less and less frequently during the task force’s daily press briefings. By the end of April, Fauci, who had previously appeared and spoken daily, had only been present once out of seven briefings.

The White House has also blocked Fauci from testifying before the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on the COVID-19 response. Though Trump had hinted via Twitter that he might fire Fauci, he hasn’t done so up to this point.

Trump has, however, fired other officials whom he has deemed disloyal to him in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was Glenn Fine, who had been leading the office of the inspector general for the Pentagon. Fine was to become the chairman of a new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee set up to oversee the federal government’s spending of coronavirus relief funds (to ensure that Trump didn’t divert funds to his family or political interests). Fine, respected by his peers and known as an independent watchdog, was abruptly demoted without explanation from his Pentagon role, and this disqualified him from serving on the oversight panel.

As a result of Fine’s reassignment, no one is currently heading up the oversight of coronavirus spending, and this allows Trump greater freedom to ignore the explicit anti-corruption provisions in the spending bill.

Then there was Dr. Rick Bright, who was abruptly fired from his role as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA); removed as deputy secretary for preparedness and response; and given a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

He was unequivocal about the reason for his dismissal, citing his doubts about the Trump-touted drug hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” in treating COVID-19. Bright said that he was pressured to direct funds toward the drug, which he said was one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” said Bright. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

This past week, Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm, a career official in the Inspector General’s office since 1999, joined the list of dismissals. Trump began to deride Grimm around the time he fired Inspector General Fine, publicly attacking Grimm for publishing a report that criticized the federal response to the coronavirus.

The report was based on extensive interviews with hospitals around the U.S., and exposed the fact that facilities were facing critical shortages of supplies, and were struggling to obtain test kits, ventilators, and protective gear for staff members. Already receiving criticism for his slow response to the developing pandemic, Trump was embarrassed, and deemed Grimm’s findings “wrong.” As if that would make it so.

“Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report,” Trump tweeted. “Another Fake Dossier!”

Three weeks later, after business hours on May 1, Trump announced that he would be replacing Grimm.

Washington Senator Patty Murray, ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said, “We all know the President hasn’t told people the truth about this virus or his Administration’s response, and late last night, he moved to silence an independent government official who did.”

Science and sound data, if they contradict Trump’s reality, are not viewed as science and sound data, but as “disloyalty.” Telling the truth makes one a traitor.

“I cannot see how any inspector general will feel in any way safe to do a good job,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group. “They are all at the mercy at what the president feels.”

In Trumpworld, loyalty is measured not by facts, but by how one ignores or twists them to support the president’s will. As Trump tells his supporters how he’s making America great again, he is dictating to them what to accept as reality, curating the “facts” he wills them to accept. How long before a six-foot portrait of Donald Trump is hung in the square?

Kushner and Trump Call Coronavirus Response “Success Story” and “Great Job”: A Closer Look | Late Night with Seth Meyers. [2020-04-30]

Rep. Says Trump Is Gaslighting The Nation Over Coronavirus | NowThis