No other president in American history has been as hyper-focused on his own press as President Donald Trump, which might be why he keeps dismissing the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barack Obama joked Tuesday.
“He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage,” the former president said at an Orlando, Florida, drive-in rally to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country,” Obama continued ― a nod to the US setting a new daily record of 68,767 cases on a seven-day average over the weekend.
“If we were focused on COVID now, the White House wouldn’t be having its second outbreak in a month,” said Obama, adding that Trump has “turned the White House into a hot zone. Some of the places he holds rallies have seen new spikes right after he leaves town.”
Trump has downplayed the coronavirus since the start, calling concerns about it a “hoax,” refusing to issue federal guidelines, pushing unproven treatments, insisting on holding large campaign events, and mocking people for wearing masks and social distancing. Despite the number of new cases spiking again in the US eight months into the pandemic, he keeps boasting that everything is under control.
Obama’s remarks come exactly one week before the last day of voting in an election that polls suggest Biden is favoured to win. Trump has repeatedly charged that his Democratic opponent will “Shutdown the Economy at the tip of a hat” if he’s elected. Biden’s camp says the economy has suffered for as long as it has because Trump has refused to take basic steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that businesses can safely reopen.
Florida, where Obama was stumping for his former vice president, remains a close race with Biden leading by a couple of percentage points. Trump won the key swing state in 2016, carried by older, white and blue-collar voters, after Obama had taken Florida in 2008 and 2012.
No one should give Trump a pass on the coronavirus, Obama argued Tuesday.
“Here’s the truth: The pandemic would have been challenging for any president,” he said, “but this idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this thing up is nonsense.”