CNN  — 

Thousands of people flocked to Freeland, Michigan, Thursday night to hear President Donald Trump make the case for why he deserves a second term in office. Very few among those thousands wore a mask.

Which prompted CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta to ask “why” – given that masks are one of the few proven ways that we can mitigate the spread of Covid-19, which has sickened more than 6 million Americans and killed nearly 200,000 Americans since March. The responses Acosta received to his simple question, are, well, startling.

Here are some (thanks to CNN’s Angie Trindade for transcribing these):

* “I have a hard time understanding people when they talk, so that’s why I don’t wear it.”

* “Because there’s no Covid. It’s a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.”

* “I am not wearing a mask because I had my temperature taken already and I’m not sick.”

* “Why am I not wearing a mask? I am not wearing a mask or a couple different reasons. Mainly because a lot of the numbers that have come out on coronavirus are not as big as – … the media makes them a lot bigger than they actually are … one other reason is that I’m very young and people who are here, coronavirus is a very serious issue…”

* “Part of it, I’m not really worried about it. Because the death rate for this is pretty low unless you have low immunities.”

* “Why? Because it really doesn’t do anything really. These little things? *pulls out mask* This is the worst pandemic in the world and a little mask? A little mask? This protects you from the world’s deadliest and serious virus that ruined our economy? We have to wear this?”

* “To me there isn’t as big of a concern as it really is. If everybody’s afraid of it, you could die in a car crash. I mean heart disease is one of the leading killers in the country, no one has stopped making cheeseburgers.”

* ” I’m not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die! We gotta get this country moving. What are we gonna do? Wear masks and stay inside for another year? Where will that get us? Let’s just mail out more checks to everybody and let the country go bankrupt.”

In truth, you really need to watch how people responded to get the full effect.

OK, now go back and read through the responses above. And consider that Covid-19 is projected to kill more than 410,000 Americans by the start of 2021. Assuming that projection is roughly right, the coronavirus will kill more Americans than died in World War II (291,557) and nearly as many as died in the Civil War (498,332).

How, you ask, given those staggering numbers, could people not only balk at wearing a mask to prevent the spread but also raise questions about whether the virus even exists?

The answer is not solely Donald Trump, of course. The rise of conspiracy theory-pushing message boards on dark Internet corners has sowed the seeds of this sort of thinking. The rising distrust in institutions – the government, the church, the military, the police – in recent years also, without doubt, plays a role in the promulgation of these uninformed and dangerous views.

But it it also impossible to watch or listen to comments like those from Trump supporters in Michigan on Thursday night and not see the outsized role that he has played in promulgating views like those.

Trump has, by his own admission, downplayed the severity of the virus. (He says he did so to avoid panicking the public.) He has repeatedly undermined the necessity of mask-wearing. He has pushed quack cures for the virus – including ingesting disinfectants. He has suggested that Democrats are making the virus out to be worse than it really is for solely political purposes.

And what all of that misinformation and conspiracy-theory embracing is what Acosta captured in 63 seconds of voter interviews on Thursday night. And that should scare all of us.