A lifetime ago (April), Mother Jones marked the first 100 days of America’s coronavirus crisis with a detailed timeline of the presidential chaos and incompetence that led to it. There were striking policy failures, moments of bizarre self-congratulation and deflection, and, of course, golf days. Deaths, then, numbered around 57,000.
What we didn’t have then, but do now, is insight into Trump’s motivations. In making the video that accompanied the investigation, I picked apart hours of Trumpian word salad, navigated through his mind-puddles, and uncovered hyperbole, fake science, disinformation, and denial. But was this all to save his skin? To sow chaos and avert blame? Maybe the know-nothing president really did know nothing? I figured “all of the above.”
Rewatching this video now (above), 160 days and more than 130,000 deaths later, is chilling for new reasons. Now we know Trump knew and understood the severity of the disease (“this is deadly stuff”), and its basic mechanism for transmission, before repeatedly assuring the public “it will disappear”. We know this because on February 7, Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that the coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Just three days later, the president told a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, that “by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” At a White House press briefing at the end of that month, Trump lied: “It’s a little like the regular flu.”
Trump’s fan club will find ways to help him wiggle out of his responsibility: It’s just how he talks… He didn’t want people to panic. But watching this video again, it’s hard to ignore the evidence that Trump’s denials were deliberate, and deadly.
Rewatch the video above, or check out our detailed timeline.