NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.
He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.
“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,” he said. “They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.”
Then Trump called the coronavirus “their new hoax.”
By undermining the news reporting on the virus and by trying to hold liberals responsible for a potential public health crisis that has little to do with politics, Trump did what he often does best: He sought to deflect blame at a time when many Americans sought leadership and scientific facts.
After Trump had downplayed the risks of coronavirus, he reassured supporters that the White House was “magnificently organized” in fighting it. In fact, Trump’s administration spent the week jockeying among themselves to lead the response, while the stock market tumbled with losses not seen since the global financial crisis in 2008.
Top White House officials kept up the same mantra all day Friday.
The director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow told reporters that “people should not overreact” — from investors to everyday Americans. “Given what we know factually, it looks to me like the market had gone too far,” Kudlow said.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney talked about the ongoing coverage of the coronavirus as an attempt by the media to politically damage the president during an election year.
Health officials, meanwhile, spent the last two days trying to determine how a California resident became infected with coronavirus and who else the patient may have exposed to it. This was the first potential case of coronavirus in the U.S. that had not been contracted from traveling abroad and potential sign it could spread throughout the U.S.