Yesterday, President Trump toured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Afterwards, he spoke to the press, alongside Secretary of HHS Alex Azar and top officials from the Center.
Aspects of the president’s performance were off putting, or should be for all but Trump’s most ardent supporters. He bragged about his grasp of information and analysis relevant to the coronavirus, saying “maybe I have natural ability.”
Trump clearly does have natural ability, though not necessarily in the field of medicine and contagious disease. What puzzles me is why he needs to brag about it.
Trump also described coronavirus testing kits as “beautiful” and as “perfect” as the phone conversation with Ukraine’s president that led to his impeachment. Was Trump trying to be funny? I don’t know. But a self-serving irrelevant aside like this, even if it was an attempt at humor, is inappropriate when discussing a potential pandemic.
In this article, David Nakamura of the Washington Post ridicules Trump’s presser. That’s okay with me. Aspects of Trump’s performance invited ridicule.
Unfortunately, Nakamura also provides a false account of the substance of Trump’s remarks. The headline of his story asserts that “Trump second-guess[ed] the [medical] professions.” In the body of the story Nakamura goes further, claiming that the president “repeatedly second-guessed. . .the actual medical professionals standing next to him.” (Emphasis added)
Trump did no such thing. In fact, he did the opposite. He deferred to the medical professionals.
Nakamura cites no example of second-guessing. I watched the full presser and heard none.
Nakamura may have had in mind Trump’s statement that he would prefer not to let passengers off of a cruise ship where the virus is prevalent because doing so would increase the number of cases in the U.S. But as Nakamura acknowledges, Trump said he wasn’t imposing this optics-based approach. Instead, he was deferring to the medical experts and to Vice President Pence.
Shortly afterwards, Pence announced that the ship would be directed to a port where everyone on board would be tested. Thus, Trump never quarreled with the expert’s decision as a medical matter, and the experts called the shot.
Nakamura also fails to note that Trump lavishly praised the U.S. medical experts dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. He called them the best experts in the world, and said that public health officials in other countries are relying heavily on them.
Trump made this statement repeatedly, so Nakamura couldn’t have missed it. He chose, however, to exclude it from his story. Why? Almost certainly because it didn’t fit Nakamura’s claim that Trump is “second-guessing the professionals.”
Nakamura is serving up fake news, and not for the first time.