Donald Trump and his administration spent the first several weeks of the current coronavirus crisis downplaying the problem and claiming that it might actually be good for the economy, among other things.
Their rosy predictions, unfortunately, have fallen flat.
The nationwide death toll from the virus has now passed 1,000. The United States now has more known COVID-19 cases than any other country, and unemployment claims are at a record high.
Here are some claims that aged particularly poorly.
Everything is under control
Trump claimed on Feb. 25 that the coronavirus was “very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better.” As recently as March 15, he was still claiming that it was “something that we have tremendous control over.”
On Thursday, the CDC reported more than 68,000 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases.
Larry Kudlow, head of Trump’s economic council, made a similar claim on Feb. 25, saying, “We have contained this. I won’t say [it is] air-tight, but it’s pretty close to air-tight.” He vowed it would not be an “economic tragedy.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also insisted on March 7 that the virus was “contained.”
“It is being contained,” she told skeptical reporters. “Do you not think it’s being contained in this country?”
Trump made an even bolder claim on Feb. 26, suggesting that the then-limited number of cases would go away. “And again, when you have 15 people, 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,” he said at a press briefing.
Asked whether schools might need to shut down, he added, “I don’t think it’s going to come to that, especially with the fact that we’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.”
Infections have since risen by more than 100,000 percent.
On March 9, Trump suggested that influenza was a bigger deal than the coronavirus. “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” he tweeted. “At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
Testing is perfect
The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back on reports of limited coronavirus testing, despite an abundance of complaints from states and localities that they have no way to administer tests to all those who need them.
On March 6, Trump claimed “anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” He added that the tests were “all perfect.”
On Tuesday, the New Yorker reported “widespread” coronavirus testing was still unavailable and would not be ready any time in the near future, due to a “critical shortage of the physical components needed to carry out tests of any variety.”
Mike Pence, whom Trump appointed to lead the coronavirus task force, claimed as recently as March 10 that “over a million tests have been distributed” thus far, promising that, “before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed.”
As of Thursday, the COVID Tracking Project, which gathers the most recent test information from across the country, said just 519,338 tests had been conducted in total. And Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s coronavirus testing “czar,” admitted on Wednesday, “We’re not at the level of having tens of millions of people tested.”
This will actually be good for the economy
Trump claimed on March 6 that the lack of international fights due to coronavirus would be good for domestic tourism.
“You know, a lot of people are staying here and they’re going to be doing their business here, they’re going to be traveling here. And they’ll be going to resorts here. We have a great place,” he argued. “So foreign people come, but we’re going to have Americans staying home instead of going and spending their money in other countries and maybe that’s one of the reasons the job numbers are so good.”
The travel industry has since ground to a virtual halt as states implement widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross went so far as to predict that the outbreak would boost U.S. jobs. “The fact is it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain,” he told Fox Business on Jan. 30. “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America. Some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.”
According to Thursday’s weekly job numbers, 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.
Back on Feb. 24, as the stock market started to tumble over coronavirus fears, Trump tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Kudlow echoed this on on Feb. 28, telling Fox Business that investors should not “rule out” optimism. “Stocks look pretty cheap to me,” he opined.
As of Friday morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 21,734, more than 4,000 points lower than when Kudlow first made his prediction.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.