After returning from four days at Walter Reed medical center to treat his case of Covid-19, President Donald Trump filmed a video – which he blasted to his 87 million Twitter followers – talking about the experience and what it, uh, taught him.
It’s a remarkably tone-deaf performance that manages to be both irresponsible, insensitive and, weirdly, boastful all in the space of 85 seconds. I broke it down – line by line – below.
1. “I just left Walter Reed Medical Center and it’s really something very special. The doctors, the nurses, the first responders and I learned so much about coronavirus.”
On its face, it should be slightly concerning that the President of the United States feels comfortable telling the public that he “learned so much about coronavirus” given that the virus has sickened more than 7 million Americans and killed more than 210,000 since March. You would hope that it didn’t take him actually getting it to engage deeply on what the virus is, how it works, how it spreads and the damage it can do. But, well, not so much.
2. “And one thing that’s for certain – don’t let it dominate you.”
To be clear: Donald Trump was the under the care of a massive team of the some of the best doctors in the world. He has access to any and every treatment to lessen the effects of the virus and to shorten its duration. And it appears as though he had a relatively mild form of Covid-19. His urging not to let the virus “dominate” you suggests that everyone who gets it will have all of those advantages. Which, of course, is ridiculous.
3. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna beat it. “
When I first heard this line, I couldn’t actually believe it. Like, I had to rewind the video and listen again. But he actually said it. The President of a country that has lost 210,000 fellow citizens to this virus – and with projections suggesting that number could double over the coming winter months – said that people shouldn’t be afraid of the virus and that they are “gonna beat it.” Talk about a tin ear.
4. “We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines, all developed recently. And you’re gonna beat it.”
Even if this is true – and Trump’s bragging about the best testing and the best ‘“medical equipment” is hard to check and not always verified by facts – it’s certainly not true for everyone. The idea that every person who gets Covid-19 will have a similar experience to that of the President of the United States is farcical. And, again, facts make clear that not everyone who gets this disease is going to beat it. Not by a long shot.
5. “I went – I didn’t feel so good. Two days ago – I could have left two days ago.”
In which the President suggests that he wasn’t actually very sick and that the doctors probably kept him in the hospital longer than they should have. It’s probably worth mentioning here that the President is not, in fact, a medical doctor or an infectious disease expert.
6. “Two days ago I felt great. Like better than I have in a long time. … I said just recently, better than 20 years ago.”
Again, Trump downplays the virus purposely here. It’s not just that he could have left the hospital much sooner than he did, it’s that he actually felt better two days after being diagnosed with Covid-19 than he did 20 years ago. The purposeful lessening of the severity of Covid-19 – and its course of infection – will undoubtedly lead some Trump supporters to attempt to “tough it out” if and when they get sick. And because not everyone has a mild case and is the President of the United States, some of them will see far more negative results than Trump.
7. “Don’t let it dominate. Don’t let it take over your lives. Don’t let that happen.”
The built-in assumption here is that people can avoid letting coronavirus “take over your lives.” Which, for many, is simply not the case. No one wants to get very sick or die from this virus. But just to reiterate, it has in fact killed more than 210,000 Americans. And there’s a big difference between following appropriate mitigation advice – mask-wearing, social distancing – and letting Covid-19 “dominate” your life. Trump seems to lump all of it together.
8. “We’re the greatest country in the world. We’re going back. We’re going back to work. We’re gonna be out front.”
The one thing we are currently “out front” on is the number of infected and dead from Covid-19. We are number one in the world in both categories.
9. “As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it but I had to do it.”
It appears here that Trump is saying he had to take the risks to expose himself to coronavirus because he is a “leader.” That makes zero sense. Trump purposely flouted CDC guidance on mask-wearing, not gathering people in large crowds and social distancing. He mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask. He called his packed campaign rallies “peaceful protests” to poke fun at the guidelines. He set a tone in the White House that mask-wearing made you weak. He did the opposite of what a leader does in a moment of crisis.
10. “I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did.”
So, to be a “leader” you have to get the coronavirus? By openly mocking a mockery of guidelines to slow the spread of a deadly disease and making yourself far more likely to get it? I would suggest that an actual leader would do everything they could to keep people safe – primarily by demonstrating best practices in combating the disease.
11. “And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger. But that’s OK. And now I’m better and maybe I’m immune? I don’t know.”
Uh, what? “Maybe I’m immune”??? It’s hard to place this statement on the scale of irresponsibility. It’s literally off the charts. Because Covid-19 is still such a new disease – it’s less than a year old – there simply haven’t been enough long-range studies to know whether someone who has it once is immune from getting it again. Anecdotally, there is evidence that some people may have been infected with Covid-19 twice. Plus, as far as we know, Trump’s infection is still active. His doctors have said Trump isn’t “out of the woods” yet. So at the least, this statement is premature.
12. “But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there, be careful.”
Again, many people have no choice as to whether Covid-19 dominates their lives or not. And rather than simply say “be careful,” why wouldn’t the President say “wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands?” You know, proven ways to mitigate the spread.
13. “We have the best medicines in the world. And it all happened very shortly, and they’re all getting approved and the vaccines are coming momentarily.”
“Momentarily” suggests that we will have a vaccine in, well, a moment. Trump has been promising the imminent arrival of a vaccine for several months now. But many experts are very skeptical that his claim that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by next April is accurate.
14. “Thank you very much and Walter Reed – what a group of people. Thank you very much.”
This is about the only truthful and responsible thing Trump said in all 85 seconds.