While campaigning for the president on Fox News on Thursday night, resident health expert Donald Trump Jr. claimed to host Laura Ingraham that the U.S. has “gotten control” of the novel coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 deaths has dropped to “almost nothing,” said Trump Jr., and if you don’t believe him, he says, “look at my Instagram, it’s gone to almost nothing. We’ve gotten a hold of it.”
Trump Jr.’s comments were insulting in the face of a virus that has infected more than 8.9 million people across the country, resulting in more than 228,000 deaths throughout the pandemic, according to recent data from Johns Hopkins University. Perhaps what's more insulting is that over 1,000 Americans died of the virus on the same day he downplayed it during his Fox appearance — the second-highest daily total for the month of October.
"I went through the CDC because I kept hearing about new infections. I was like well why aren't they talking about deaths?” said Trump Jr. “Oh, because the number is almost nothing. Because we've gotten control of this thing, we understand how it works.”
The exchange between Trump Jr. and Ingraham was in response to CNN medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, who warned Trump supporters that they should be wary of attending one of the president’s campaign rallies. “Look, just about anywhere in the country now, if you go to a gathering that’s several hundred people, it’s without a doubt the virus is attending that rally with you,” he said.
Gupta’s message struck a nerve with the eldest Trump son, who has consistently treated the virus as a partisan issue. In the early stages of the pandemic — and before the country went into its first lockdown — Trump Jr. declared on Fox and Friends that the Democratic Party hoped the coronavirus would come to the U.S. and kill “millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump's streak of winning.” This assertion is both appalling and wildly untrue.
Trump Jr. continued to share false information about the virus well into the pandemic. In July, Twitter temporarily suspended his account after Trump Jr. shared a viral, far-right video that showed a group of people dressed in white lab coats, who claimed to be part of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors. Members of the group inaccurately stated that wearing masks was not a useful way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, despite what public health experts have repeatedly said. They also said hydroxychloroquine was the best cure for the virus. But coronavirus patients who received the drug as part of their treatment plan were actually at a higher risk of developing irregular heart rhythms, and even death.
While the novel coronavirus has certainly become an important talking point among both Democrats and Republicans in the presidential election, no one has weaponized it in their pursuit of power quite like the Trump administration. Trump Jr. couldn't be more wrong about COVID-19, and his continuous efforts to downplay the virus risk harming even more people, as the U.S. enters its second surge of cases.