On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” program I said we were covering a possible coverup about the president’s health. I emphasized the word “possible” when I said the coverup was being led by the president, from his hospital room, because he is so sensitive about being perceived as weak.
I need to amend that statement. Cut out the “possible.” There is an obvious coverup underway, and reporters are chipping away at it, trying to get to the truth.
The clearest evidence of a coverup is the White House’s refusal to share Trump’s coronavirus testing history. Reporters have been asking for several days: When was the date of Trump’s last negative test? Did he test negative for Covid-19 on Wednesday, the day after the presidential debate, before testing positive on Thursday?
Yahoo White House correspondent Hunter Walker and other reporters asked the question again on Monday, but Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley said “I don’t want to go backward.”
“That’s something that a press secretary says, not something a doctor says,” CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out afterward.
Since no one in Trump’s orbit will answer the question, it seems fair to conclude that the answer is embarrassing for Trump and his administration. He was required to be tested before last Tuesday’s debate — and his campaign told the debate commission that he was tested — so did someone lie to the commission?
CNN’s John Harwood said the non-answers indicate that “they’ve been lying about the frequency of his testing, including whether he was tested before debating” Joe Biden, or that “he tested positive earlier than they’ve acknowledged, which was two days after debate.”
In a bigger-picture sense, Trump is also covering up the reality of Covid-19. By tweeting things like “don’t be afraid of Covid” and refusing to follow the CDC’s guidelines, he is resuming his coronavirus denialism while he is still hobbled by the disease.
A photo op and a power trip
Trump’s looks-like-victory flight home to the White House made sense through this prism: Every day is a TV show, he’s the producer and the star, and he’ll figure out some new show to produce tomorrow. He is not thinking a week or two ahead. He’s certainly not trying to be a role model. In the words of this Axios headline, he is viewing “each day as TV episode.”
By that weak standard, he succeeded on Monday. “That is the shot the President wants for the front page of the newspapers,” Norah O’Donnell said on CBS as Trump arrived back home.
It was, I said on CNN, a literal power trip -— the live shot of the Marine One flight showed symbols of his power, including the Pentagon — and it called to mind his use of the South Lawn for his Republican National Convention acceptance speech. But the visuals did not match reality.
“What a bunch of bullsh**t”
That’s what Chris Cuomo said at the start of “Cuomo Prime Time” on Monday night.
Cuomo narrated while showing the video of Trump’s arrival back at the White House: “There he is, hair blown majestically, reshooting the scene for his own ad. ‘I hold rallies, and I tell you to ignore masks, and I rip mine off, as I vanquish the virus, because I’m a leader. Fear not, COVID.’ What a bunch of bulls**t!”
“He got every advantage,” Cuomo said, including world-class medical treatment at Walter Reed. “He has use of all the things he denies the rest of us. He is supposed to get tested every day with a test that you can turn around quickly and know what’s going on. Did he do them? Did he even use what’s at his disposal that the rest of us are desperate for, that our kids need in our classes that he doesn’t even discuss? ‘No’ is the answer. ‘Why? Show us the results.’ His doctor, ‘I don’t want to go backward.’”
“Get out of the way,” Cuomo said. “Show us the results.”
CNN media critic Brian Lowry writes: “It’s hard to quantify, but it feels like the last 72 hours of spin and obfuscation has cracked something in the media response to the White House, with even reporters who generally discuss the Trump administration in measured tones sounding exasperated and using terms like ‘lying’ more liberally. Whether that thinly veiled anger lingers will be worth watching in the days ahead.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.