CNN Invents a Position for Trump on the Pandemic

May 20, 2024

During the first year of the pandemic the one consistent position held by Donald Trump was that he did not want to be held responsible for anything. He basically told this to Bob Woodward in interviews for his book, but he also repeatedly made public comments to this effect over the course of 2020.

This started at the beginning of the pandemic’s spread to the country, when Trump said that he wanted to keep infected passengers on a cruise ship so that the number of people reported as having Covid in the United States would not rise. In the summer, Trump said that he ordered that testing be slowed down so that there would be fewer cases reported. Trump deferred to states in imposing pandemic restrictions in most areas, although he did himself impose a ban on international travel.

On vaccines, Trump funded the development of multiple vaccines through Operation Warp Speed. While he occasionally boasted about the success of the program (several other countries, including China, developed vaccines in a comparable timeframe), he made no plans for the vaccines’ distribution following approval. He also has chimed in with anti-vaxxers, threatening to punish school systems over decades-old mandates for vaccines against communicable diseases like measles and polio.  

While Trump did often follow the advice of public health experts, he also at times pushed crackpot treatments like hydroxychloroquine. Trump also once famously suggested ingesting disinfectant internally and using ultraviolet light to kill the virus.

In short, Trump has no coherent position on the pandemic, he repeated reversed course on his policy. The only consistent theme to Trump’s positions was that he didn’t want to be held responsible for people getting sick and dying, but he also didn’t want to be held responsible for preventive measures that would limit the impact of the pandemic.

For this reason, when CNN tells readers:

“President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump diverged over the Covid-19 pandemic,”

it is making up out of whole cloth the idea that Trump had a position in dealing with pandemic. There was and is no consistent position from Trump to contrast with Biden’s position, unless the contrast is supposed to be between a candidate trying to evade responsibility (Trump) and one that feels the government has a responsibility to protect public health.  


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