This a real exchange that happened Monday morning between “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham:
Earhardt: “Stephanie, when Bernie was on ‘Meet the Press’ over the weekend, Chuck Todd asked him if he was going to continue to be on the campaign trail because we keep hearing if you’re around 80 years old you are susceptible, and he is 78 years old. President Trump is 73. Will he continue to have rallies and be out there on the campaign trail?”
Grisham: “He actually just addressed this. Yes, he plans on still holding rallies. And I’ll tell you what, with our President – this man who doesn’t sleep and who I have seen work 15-16 hours a day every day – I have no problem thinking that he’s going to be just fine and just healthy.”
Just so everyone is clear on this. The press secretary of the United States was asked about a growing epidemic and its potential impact of the President. And her answer was this: “This man who doesn’t sleep and who I have seen work 15-16 hours a day every day – I have no problem thinking that he’s going to be just fine and just healthy.”
That’s not the point! That’s not even close to the point!
Grisham’s response is akin to being asked about whether you are worried about getting the flu and responding: “No, I lift a lot of weights and I am pretty jacked.”
No, actually, it’s worse than that. Because what Grisham is touting – that Trump works a lot and doesn’t sleep – are just the sort of things that make you more vulnerable to illness, not less so! Lack of sleep is VERY clearly linked to lowered immune health!
Look, I get it (I think). Grisham is trying to project calm here. Panic is the enemy in these sorts of situations. And if the White House is panicking, well, that’s likely to trigger a broader panic in the country.
But there’s more here too. Trump fashions himself as a man’s man, a tough guy – someone who laughs in the face of danger. Weakness is for Democrats, not for people like Trump! And that’s what is driving Grisham’s response here. Trump works all the time! He never sleeps! How could he possibly get sick!
This is, to put a fine point on it, dumb. Viruses are not impacted by how “tough” you are. That’s not how any of this works!
Now, it is also true that Trump has been a germaphobe from way back. As Politico wrote back in 2018:
“Two and a half years into his term, President Donald Trump is solidifying his standing as the most germ-conscious man to ever lead the free world. His aversion shows up in meetings at the White House, on the campaign trail and at 30,000 feet. And everyone close to Trump knows the president’s true red line.
“‘If you’re the perpetrator of a cough or of a sneeze or any kind of thing that makes you look sick, you get that look,’ said a former Trump campaign official. “’You get the scowl. You get the response of — he’ll put a hand up in a gesture of, you should be backing away from him, you should be more considerate and you should extricate yourself from the situation.’”
And Grisham did note Trump’s tendencies toward cleanliness in that “Fox & Friends” interview. “The President of the United States, as we all know, is quite a hand washer. He uses hand sanitizer all the time. So he’s not concerned about this at all.”
Which is, actually, an OK message! Wash your hands, people! That actually is shown to prevent the spread of illnesses – including coronavirus!
The problem is what Grisham said before she said the right thing. And that previous quote exposes a flawed logic that is the last thing the country needs right now.