While many Americans were sitting down to dinner on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump stepped into the White House briefing room to give the country an update on the novel coronavirus and its spread across the globe.
Trump delivered an opening statement and then took questions for almost an hour. And, as he does, the President veered into a wide variety of topics even while stretching the truth to the breaking point.
I went through the full transcript; the lines you need to see are below.
1. “We have, through some very good early decisions, decisions that were ridiculed at the beginning, we closed up our borders to flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard.”
The key thing about the coronavirus – and what Americans need to know and do about it – is apparently that Trump was right about it from the start, even though some people ridiculed him. And away we go!
2. “A lot of people thought we shouldn’t have done it that early, and we did, and it turned out to be a very good thing.”
Again: Trump wants you to know he was right. Others were wrong. This is very important.
3. “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low.”
Quantifying what “very low” means from a risk perspective is tough. But it is worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that the spread of coronavirus in the US is inevitable.
4. “We are ready to adapt and we are ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.”
“We expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” – Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
5. “We started out by looking at certain things and we’ve been working with the Hill very, very carefully, very strongly.”
“Looking at certain things,” you say? Verrrry intriguing. (Nota bene: Trump is almost certainly working from a prepared statement here.)
6. “And I think we have very good bipartisan spirit for money.”
“Bipartisan Spirit for Money” is going to be the title of my memoir.
7. “And again, we’ve had tremendous success – tremendous success beyond what people would have thought.”
The presumption here is that people had thoughts about how the US would deal with coronavirus. And that we have far exceeded those expectations. Which is weird.
8. “One instance where we think we can be – it’s somewhat reliable, it seems to have gotten quite a bit smaller.”
In which the President of the United States suggests the outbreak in China is slowing – citing a “somewhat reliable” source. Good times!
9. “The vaccine is coming along well. And in speaking to the doctors, we think this is something that we can develop fairly rapidly, a vaccine for the future and coordinate with the support of our partners.”
“At the earliest an efficacy trial would take an additional six to eight months. So although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we really wait about a year to a year and a half.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, shortly after Trump made his claim.
10. “But we’re very, very ready for this, for anything whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we’re – you know we’re at that very low level.”
[nods head very slowly]
11. “The – John’s Hopkins I guess is a highly respected great place. They did a – a – a study, comprehensive. The countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic. And the United States is now – we’re rated number one.”
Boom! We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!
12. “He’s very good and I think – and he’s really very expert at the field.”
What infectious disease specialist is the President referring to here? Vice President Mike Pence! Who is not an “expert” in the field!
13. “Well, I don’t think it’s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level.”
The CDC says the spread of coronavirus in the United States is inevitable. Donald Trump says it isn’t. Which do you believe?
14. “I’m the President of the United States. I’m not a President of other countries.”
Fact check: True!
15. “I’ll be going to meetings quite a bit depending on what they want to do and what message we want to get out.”
16. “But we’ve done really an extraordinary job, when you look at a country this size with so many people pouring in, we’re the number one in the world for the people coming into a country by far.”
Again, Trump wants the big takeaway here to be that he is doing an amazing job – whether or not coronavirus spreads widely in the US.
17. “I think they look at the people that you watched debating last night, and they say, if there’s even a possibility that can happen, I think it really takes a hit because of that.”
In which the President says that the reason the stock market is tumbling isn’t just fears of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy (it is) but rather because people didn’t like what they saw in the Democratic debate on Tuesday night. Cool story bro!
18. “So you know, my attitude, if Congress wants to give us the money so easy – it wasn’t very easy for the wall, but we got that one done.”
So, just to be clear, Trump declared a national emergency at the border in order to seize money already allocated for other uses so that he could begin construction of the southern border wall.
19. “And again, when you have 15 and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
One wonders whether Trump has injured himself with such aggressive back-patting.
20. “I’m leading everybody, we’re doing great.”
Yeah, this all checks out. Doing great!
21. “She’s trying to create a panic and there’s no reason to panic because we have done so good.”
Just the President accusing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of trying to create a panic. Also worth noting: Trump thinks his administration has “done so good” on dealing with the coronavirus.
22. “When I mentioned the flu, I said – actually, I asked the various doctors, I said, is this just like flu? Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual.”
OK, so Trump has now learned that coronavirus is not the flu. So, that’s something?
23. “But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”
Yes, I think you may have mentioned that.
24. “I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.”
Trump, again tries to tie the stock market drop to the Democratic debate. There is, of course, zero evidence to back up this claim.
25. “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”
[narrator voice] We won’t.
26. “When somebody sneezes – I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when there’s sneezing.”
27. “Ebola, you disintegrated, especially at the beginning.”
This is, um, not a medical definition of the effects of Ebola – just in case you were wondering.
28. “This is a flu. This is like a flu and this is a much different situation than Ebola.”
But you just said this isn’t the flu? Right?
29. “It’d be very easy for me to say, you know – it doesn’t matter what I say really.”
So, well, yeah.
30. “There’s a chance that it won’t spread, too, and there’s a chance that it will.”
31. “So far we’ve done a great job.”
This feels like a good place to end.