The Democratic National Committee is launching a new offensive on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic with a focus on the thorny issue of reopening schools, rolling out a television ad on Monday as parents and educators across the country express widespread concern ahead of the new school year.
In the 60-second TV spot titled “This Is Not a Test” first shared with CNN, the narrator begins by describing Trump as “unprepared and making it up” when it comes to the virus. The ad features some of Trump’s own past statements about Covid-19, including his prediction that it might disappear in April in the heat and his desire to slow down testing.
“Other countries followed guidance. He ignored science,” the narrator says. “Desperate to reopen schools because he thinks it will save his reelection, threatening their funding, ignoring how the virus spreads, risking teachers’ and parents’ lives, going against the advice of experts.”
It ends with the narrator asking, “Do you trust him to do what’s best for our children? Because this is not a test. Trump is failing,” after which Trump can be heard saying: “I aced it. I aced the test.”
According to a DNC aide, the six-figure ad buy will run on cable channels across multiple battleground states, and marks the start of a two-week campaign that will target Trump’s position on reopening schools that is being run in coordination with the Joe Biden campaign, Democratic elected officials and candidates as well as parent activists.
The new ad comes as Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has spent the past few weeks hammering away at Trump’s management of the pandemic. The former vice president has also rolled out his own policy plans geared toward addressing the myriad of public health and economic challenges that the virus poses.
In a proposal unveiled earlier this month, the Biden campaign laid out a “roadmap” for reopening schools safely, including by calling on Congress to pass about $34 billion in emergency funding to go toward this effort.
“Everyone wants their schools to be reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick,” Biden said in releasing the plan. “Forcing educators and students back into a classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.”
DNC chair Tom Perez said in a statement that Trump has placed American families in an “impossible position.”
“Parents shouldn’t have to stay up at night worried that the President of the United States is compromising their kids’ safety. Children shouldn’t be exposed to a deadly virus, or risk passing the virus to their parents, grandparents, and loved ones,” Perez said. “Trump will do anything to help his reelection chances. He can’t be trusted to make this life-or-death decision for our children.”
As the Covid-19 virus continues to spread in parts of the country and the death toll keeps growing, Trump has generally taken the stance that schools must reopen in the fall.
“We cannot indefinitely stop 50 million children from going to school,” Trump said last week. “Reopening our schools is also critical to ensuring parents can go to work and provide for their families.”
The President also said that in some parts of the country where coronavirus infection rates are particularly high, in-person learning may need to remain on hold. He has called on Congress to provide $105 billion in its next stimulus bill to go toward the reopening of schools, and that in areas where schools remain closed, the money “should follow the student so the parents and families are in control of their own decisions.”
Trump has also made misleading statements related to children and the coronavirus: In a recent press briefing, he said that children “don’t transmit” the virus and that if they “do catch it, they get better fast.” While children who are infected with the virus are less likely to develop severe symptoms than adults, not all “get better fast.” And studies have suggested that children can and do transmit Covid-19.
Recent polls indicate that many parents across the country do not want to send their children back to school, out of concern for their health. An ABC/Ipsos poll last week showed that 55% of adults said they did not want to see public schools reopen in their area for in-person instruction, while in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 60% of parents said school reopenings should be delayed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.