Fact check: Biden distorts Trump’s words on virus ‘hoax’
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is presenting a distorted account of President Donald Trump’s words on the coronavirus, wrongly suggesting Trump branded the virus a hoax.
In fact, Trump pronounced Democratic criticism of his pandemic response a hoax.
Biden tweeted a video mashup of Trump’s rhetoric on the crisis, sampling the many times the president has underplayed the severity of the pandemic.
BIDEN VIDEO: “Trump in public: ‘Hoax.’ Trump in private: ‘Killer.’”
BIDEN VIDEO, showing Trump saying at a Feb. 28 campaign rally in South Carolina: “The coronavirus – and this is their new hoax.”
THE FACTS: The accusation and the selective video editing are misleading. At the rally featured in the video, Trump actually said the phrases “the coronavirus” and “this is their new hoax” at separate points. Although his meaning is difficult to discern, the broader context of his words shows he was railing against Democrats for their denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response.
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said. “You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it.” He meandered briefly to the subject of the messy Democratic primary in Iowa, then the Russia investigation before returning to the pandemic. “They tried the impeachment hoax. … And this is their new hoax.”
Asked at a news conference the next day to clarify his remarks, Trump made clear he was not referring to the coronavirus itself as a hoax.
“No, no, no.” he said. “‘Hoax’ referring to the action that they take to try and pin this on somebody, because we’ve done such a good job. The hoax is on them, not – I’m not talking about what’s happening here. I’m talking what they’re doing. That’s the hoax.”
He continued: “Certainly not referring to this. How could anybody refer to this? This is very serious stuff.”
The video’s reference to “Trump in private” calling the virus a “killer” comes from the president’s interview in April with author and journalist Bob Woodward, whose new book “Rage” contains Trump’s acknowledgment that he was playing down the virus threat in public, so as to avoid panic.
But it is incorrect for Biden to suggest, as the video does, that Trump insisted the virus was a hoax before ultimately acknowledging to the author in April that it was deadly and serious.
Trump on several occasions before that did refer publicly to the virus as a “plague” and a “killer,” while also falsely dismissing it as something that would go away on its own, in hot weather or otherwise.