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IN THE NEWS: Trump’s “Error-Laden” Address Failed to Reassure Americans Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

By March 12, 2020No Comments

Last night, President Trump addressed the nation after the World Health Organization declared the spread of coronavirus a global pandemic. After weeks of downplaying the seriousness of the virus, the president used xenophobic rhetoric while laying out a new set of ineffective policies that ignore the fact that the virus is already spreading throughout the United States. Trump imposed a travel ban on most of Europe, but spared the countries where he owns resorts to shield himself from any economic impact. Trump also failed to address the backlog of testing and potential for overwhelmed hospitals, leaving Americans without much-needed certainty during this crisis. 

Associated Press Analysis: Analysis: Facing Virus Outbreak, Trump’s Tactics Fall Short. “In an address to the nation Wednesday night, Trump announced a sweeping travel ban for much of Europe as well as a package of proposals to help steady the teetering economy. But he continued to play down the severity of the situation, painting it as a foreign threat that soon will be banished rather than focusing on managing the growing number of cases at home.” [Associated Press, 3/12/20

New York Times: In Oval Office Speech, Trump “Appeared To Minimize The Damage The Virus Has Wreaked Across The Country.” “He also appeared to minimize the damage the virus has already wreaked across the country, where there are now more than 1,200 active cases. Instead, he heaped praise on his administration’s response when in reality, his attempts to play down the health crisis have been under fierce criticism for weeks. There were also surprising — and significant — inaccuracies in the speech, which administration officials and the president had to clarify almost immediately afterward. Mr. Trump said in his address he would suspend ‘all travel from Europe to the United States,’ but the ban in fact applies to foreign citizens. And while he said the measure would ‘apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo’ across the ocean, the order in fact affects only people.” [New York Times, 3/12/20

Bloomberg: Trump’s Error-Laden ‘Foreign Virus’ Speech Has Investors Spooked. “He blamed allies for not adopting tough immigration measures that he said had prevented a wider outbreak in the U.S. But the combative approach and small-bore measures seemed only to highlight the president’s struggles to confront the most consequential moment of his presidency. And even in a 10-minute address, Trump couldn’t stick to the facts. He overstated the European travel restrictions, saying he was ‘suspending all travel’ from the continent, and suggested they would also apply to trade. He tweeted later that trade wouldn’t be affected, and the Department of Homeland Security clarified that the restriction applies generally to foreigners who’ve been in Europe within 14 days.” [Bloomberg, 3/11/20

Associated Press: “Trump Left Unaddressed The Testing Backlog That Is Hampering Efforts To Learn Just How Many Americans Already Are Infected.” “In his remarks, Trump focused more on the threat of travel continuing to bring in illness when, in fact, in parts of the country there already is ‘community spread’ — meaning people who don’t have a known travel exposure are becoming infected. In an omission that Democratic leaders called ‘alarming,’ Trump left unaddressed the testing backlog that is hampering efforts to learn just how many Americans already are infected. And while he warned the elderly to avoid risky crowds, advised nursing homes to suspend visitors and told sick people to stay home from work, he didn’t address one of the biggest concerns — whether hospitals are equipped to handle the sick or will be overwhelmed.” [Associated Press, 3/12/20

Vox: Trump’s Coronavirus Speech Was Laced With Xenophobia. “Seated behind his desk in the White House Wednesday, Trump looked into the camera and warned Americans of an enemy who has infiltrated our borders. We are at war, he said, with a ‘foreign virus.’ It’s a tactic meant to distract from what his administration has and hasn’t done, in this case to combat the coronavirus pandemic.” [Vox, 3/11/20

The New York Times: “In The Course Of His Speech, Mr. Trump Mischaracterized His Own Policies.” “The president made a point of referring to it as a ‘foreign virus’ and blamed the European Union for having ‘failed to take the same precautions’ as he had in limiting travel from China, where the outbreak got its start, even though Europe has not been a major source of known infections so far in the United States…In the course of his speech, Mr. Trump mischaracterized his own policies, even though he was reading from the teleprompter. He said he was ‘suspending all travel from Europe to the United States,’ when in fact it applies only to foreigners, and he said it would ‘apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo’ across the ocean, when in fact his order affects only people. He corrected the latter afterward on Twitter, saying ‘The restriction stops people not goods.’” [New York Times, 3/11/20

Washington Post: Besieged Trump Announces Drastic Measures In Effort To Stem Coronavirus Pandemic. “Since the first known case of coronavirus was reported in the United States on Jan. 21, Trump has addressed the matter with sporadic and slapdash comments. It took until Wednesday evening for the president to deliver a formal set of prepared remarks, with guidance for the public about what to do and assurance that the federal government is fully engaged in seeking to mitigate the crisis. For the 11 minutes he addressed the nation Wednesday, Trump turned in a laboring performance — one intended to project calm competence that instead seemed to reveal uncertainty.“ [Washington Post, 3/11/20

TIME: Why President Trump Wants To Frame COVID-19 As A ‘Foreign Virus.’ “While Trump’s appearance had all the set pieces for showcasing leadership and uniting the country in the face of a crisis, he flubbed the description of his travel ban and inadvertently said that cargo from Europe would also be cut off, along with passengers. After the speech, White House aides scrambled to clear up the error before the prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in trade coming to a standstill roiled financial markets further.” [TIME, 3/12/20

POLITICO: Trump’s Travel Ban Sidesteps His Own European Resorts. “President Donald Trump’s new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.” [POLITICO, 3/12/20]