Trump’s Briefings Have Spent Hours on Self-Praise and Personal Attacks—and Just Minutes on COVID-19 Victims

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Some intrepid reporters at the Washington Post have waded through transcripts of all 35 White House coronavirus press briefings since March 16 and analyzed more than a day’s worth of President Donald Trump’s statements. What they found isn’t pretty, but it isn’t surprising.

Philip Bump and Ashley Barker, who looked closely at Trump’s remarks from April 6 to April 24, write that his “freewheeling approach” to his daily briefings closely resembles his on-pause campaign rallies. In nearly a quarter of his prepared statements and answers to reporters’ questions, Trump said something false or misleading, such as suggesting that injecting household disinfectants into the body might cure COVID-19. (Please don’t do this.) 

In their review of 13 hours of Trump remarks over the last three weeks, Bump and Barker found: 

  • 45 minutes of self-praise
  • 9 minutes promoting hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that the FDA issued a warning about on Friday, saying it should not be used outside a hospital setting
  • 4 and half minutes of condolences for COVID-19 victims

Altogether, Trump has spoken for more than 28 hours since he started his daily briefings in March. In  comparison, we’ve heard from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, for 6 hours cumulatively, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, for just 2. 

Of his answers to 346 questions that Trump has been asked, he has responded by attacking someone in a third of his answers. The most common targets of those attacks were:

  • Democrats, including Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi (attacked 48 times over 30 minutes)
  • The media (attacked 37 times over 25 minutes)
  • Governors (attacked 34 times over 22 minutes)
  • China (attacked 31 times over 21 minutes)

In some alternate universe, it might have been reassuring, or at the very least informative, for the president of the United States to spend such a significant chunk of time speaking to the public during a global crisis that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and cratered the economy. But who are we kidding? At least the president’s “ratings” were “through the roof”: 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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