Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
On Sunday morning, Donald Trump took to Twitter to try to convince you that his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been “perfectly coordinated and fine tuned.” He then made it clear that if you think otherwise, it’s all the fault of the “Fake News Media” which he claims “is doing everything possible to make us look bad.”
In reality, Trump looking “bad” over his handling of the deadly coronavirus outbreak is not the fault of the media. It’s the fault of one person: Donald J. Trump. His lies, undermining of experts and overall incompetence in handling this health crisis are the real reasons Trump has well earned this criticism in the press.
Trump has served up an irresponsible and dangerous buffet of misinformation about the threat posed by the coronavirus. One the most alarming examples came at his news conference last week, where he addressed a nation hungry for facts about this deadly virus. There, Trump told one of his biggest lies about the virus – and I say “lie” because we now know what he was told shortly before he made his remarks.
Trump assured Americans at that February 26 news conference that the number of people infected in the United States is “going very substantially down, not up.” Trump even bragged about the 15 cases at the time on US soil, claiming that “the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero.”
Fact checkers at the time called out Trump’s false statements: The CDC had made it clear to expect more, not fewer cases, an estimation that has proven accurate. As of Sunday afternoon, there are more than 500 cases and 21 deaths across 30 states from the coronavirus – which just 10 days ago Trump promised would soon be at zero.
But the most damning evidence that Trump knowingly misled the American people in saying that the number of infections in the United States would be “zero” within a “couple of days” is what we learned from recent reporting. According to The Washington Post, Trump had been informed shortly before the news conference of the first person on US soil who had contracted the disease without having traveled and with no connection to people who had traveled.
That new development meant the disease had entered a new phase with cases poised to “skyrocket.” Yet Trump did not mention that new information when he stood before reporters, apparently because it would’ve undermined his campaign of misinformation. (We learned about this new case only later that night from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Trump was also rightly criticized earlier this week when he tried to undermine the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that the mortality rate for the coronavirus was no longer just over 2%, but had risen based on new data to 3.4%. In a phone call on Fox News’s “Hannity” show, Trump bluntly stated that “the 3.4% is really a false number.” What was the basis for Trump disputing the health care experts at WHO? Trump commented, “this is just my hunch.” This type of misinformation is not only irresponsible, but it’s potentially life-threatening to those Americans who might take Trump’s word over that of the experts.
Trump’s dangerous rhetoric seems more about keeping stock market prices up to help his reelection campaign than protecting Americans. His administration has also failed to provide vitally needed test kits so that health care experts can assess how many people are actually infected.
On March 3, the head of Trump’s Food and Drug Administration promised that by end of the week, they would be prepared to test nearly 1 million people for the virus. But late last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted on CNN there had been some “missteps” by the CDC that delayed shipping these test kits, despite his belief there needs to be “millions and millions” of tests conducted to properly asses the risks.
After being pressed by Anderson Cooper, Fauci commented that the hope is the CDC will be able to send out at least 75,000 test kits early this week.
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Despite those facts, Trump lied again Friday, telling the media, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test,” adding, “As of right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test can get one.” In reality, doctors across the country have made it clear that the “slow federal action” has resulted in an alarmingly short supply of coronavirus test kits, which New York City health officials bluntly stated “impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic.”
In one word, Trump’s response to this health crisis has been awful. He deserves every word of criticism he has received for his lies and incompetence. And we as a nation deserve far better than Trump.