Facing an unabating pandemic, abysmal poll numbers and an economic slump, President Donald Trump has made a series of media appearances this week where he appeared deflated and resorted to fearmongering, repeating falsehoods and employing racist and sexist stereotypes in rambling and at-times incoherent answers.
In the absence of rallies, Trump has utilized friendly media interviewers and the White House briefing room podium as his stage – the raucous, adoring crowds he so thrives on replaced with a small group of socially distanced, masked reporters. But in the televised appearances, he’s lacked his usual vigor and animation, appearing tired and visibly hunched, veering into bizarre tangents and mispronouncing words.
Meanwhile the US reported its highest number of coronavirus fatalities since May on Wednesday, with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield warning of the “worst fall from a public health perspective that we’ve ever had” if Americans don’t heed guidelines. But rather than use his platform to advocate for mask wearing and social distancing, Trump largely glossed over the pandemic, briefly advocating for the reopening of schools during a roughly 40-minute Thursday morning Fox Business Network interview.
Trump painted a dark, dystopian picture of the United States under a potential Biden administration Thursday, warning of a world without cows or “any form of animals.”
“If he wins, you’re going to end up with a disaster,” he claimed of Democratic rival Joe Biden during a wide-ranging, phone-in appearance on Fox Business Network Thursday morning, calling out the Green New Deal, which he mistakenly referred to as the “New Green Deal,” as something that was “drawn by children.”
Trump claimed on Thursday that if Biden is elected, there would be “no fossil fuels, which means, basically, no energy,” warned that cities would need to be rebuilt “because too much light gets through the windows … let’s rip down the Empire State Building,” “no airplanes,” few cars, and suggested: “They don’t want to have cows, they don’t want to have any form of animals.”
The Green New Deal does not eliminate cows, but does call for the government to work with farmers and ranchers to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, which accounts for 14.5% of total global emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
While his campaign and media allies have attempted to draw contrasts with Biden and his newly announced running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, with a series of specific shots, Trump offered little in the way of fresh, on-message attacks, instead touting his 2016 electoral victory and using barely coded racist and sexist language in multiple appearances.
“Sort of a madwoman, I call her, because she was so angry,” he said of Harris Thursday, minutes after tweeting that she was mean and condescending to Biden during the primary.
Trump was also unable to articulate a clear vision for a second term when pressed repeatedly by Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo, instead mentioning some tax measures and going after senators who don’t support him.
“We’re going to continue cutting regulations,” he said, touting his payroll tax cut as a “very positive jolt to the economy” and then vowing to “do a capital gains tax cut to 15% in the second term.”
In the same response, he warned that Republicans could lose the Senate because some senators don’t support him enough.
“You have a few people that want to be cute, and I think they’re going to lose their elections and that’s a problem for the Senate,” he said.
Trump touted his economy, highlighting stock market gains and minimizing the bleak reality of double-digit unemployment, which comes as Capitol Hill negotiators have gone days without talks for a desperately needed stimulus package.
And he continued to sow doubt in November’s election results, saying that Democrats’ request for additional United States Postal Service funding are holding up stimulus talks.
“They want $3.5 billion for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want $3.5 billion for the mail in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, falsely claiming that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”
While multiple members his own administration have vocally condemned China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, including the arrest of activist and media mogul Jimmy Lai, Trump, who frequently ties Biden and other Democrats to socialism, missed an opportunity to advocate for Hong Kong’s democracy, instead saying that the US will make “billions and billions” more in the absence of economic incentives for the country.
“So what does it mean for the United States? It means that our markets are going to make a lot more money,” he said, adding that Hong Kong’s markets will “go to hell.”
Trump also went after his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, and appeared to pressure Attorney General Bill Barr to influence John Durham’s investigation of the Russia probe, with a rambling response.
He called on Wray to be “more forthcoming” and warned: “Bill Barr has a chance to be the greatest of all time. But if he wants to be politically correct, he’ll be just another guy.”
CNN’s Jason Hoffman and Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.