Trump Stumbles, Lies, and Equivocates His Way Through a Meeting With Undecided Voters

Surprise: A rare encounter with voters outside of his fawning rallies goes poorly.

Tip-toeing outside the comfortable ground of his fawning rallies, President Trump on Tuesday faced undecided voters at an ABC News town hall special, where he was met with questions on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, health care, and racism in America. The event, a rare departure for a president who has more or less limited his encounters with everyday Americans to his supporters, featured the usual parade of falsehoods and equivocations that have come to define his public appearances.

But this time, some voters were unsparing in expressing their profound frustrations with the president.

“I thought you were doing a good job with the pandemic response until about May 1,” one voter said, “then you took your foot off the gas pedal. Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?”

“Well, we really didn’t,” Trump responded, launching into his routine monologue of blaming China and pointing to efforts to provide ventilators and a vaccine that he claims will arrive shortly. Strangely, Trump also falsely claimed that the virus would simply “go away” even without a vaccine.

Trump’s coronavirus lies continued when he denied that he had ever downplayed the pandemic, despite admitting to doing exactly that during taped conversations with veteran journalist Bob Woodward. Rejecting the accusation, Trump instead claimed, “I don’t want to drive our nation into a panic. I’m a cheerleader for this nation.”

In one of the more bizarre moments, when asked why he didn’t support a national mask mandate, Trump blamed Joe Biden—who is not the president—and Democrats. “They said at the Democrat convention, they’re going to do a national mandate, they never did it,” he said. “Because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. A good question is you ask Joe Biden, they said ‘We’re going to do a national mandate on masks.'” George Stephanopoulos, the moderator, interrupted to point out that Biden had urged governors to enforce face-covering rules. “But he didn’t do it, he never did it,” Trump shot back. 

But the president’s stumbles at the event extended well beyond the pandemic.

On health care, Trump lied, falsely claiming that he was in favor of protecting people with pre-existing health conditions despite his administration’s relentless efforts to destroy those very protections. He also once again claimed that he was “going to be doing a health care plan very strongly”—which prompted  Stephanopoulos to remind the president that nearly four years into his presidency, he has yet to introduce such a plan. 

When asked how he intended to heal race relations, Trump also repeated his much-condemned remark claiming that police officers who shoot Black men simply “choked” under pressure. “We have not been seeing a change,” Carl Day, a pastor in Philadelphia, told Trump. “Quite frankly, under your administration, under the Obama administration, under the Bush, the Clinton, the very same things happening, the very same cycles that continue to ensue.”

“You’ve said everything else about ‘choking’ and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that there’s been a race problem in America.”

“Well, I hope there’s not race problem—I can tell you there’s none with me because I have great respect for all races, for everybody,” Trump said, bringing the conversation back to himself while failing to recognize the broader racism Day had urged him to see. Trump then touted his administration’s supposed achievements for the Black community. 

The event offered something of a preview of the Commission on Presidential Debates’ October 15 town hall forum, where both Trump and Joe Biden, the democratic nominee, will take audience questions. If last night’s performance from Trump offering of a string of stumbles, lies, and equivocations is any indication, uncommitted voters are unlikely to be convinced that another four years will somehow be better for the country.

“He didn’t answer anything,” Paul Tubiana, one of the event’s questioners, told CNN’s Brian Stelter after the special. “He was lying through his teeth.”

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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