Ride or die.
Support The Bulwark.
  Join Now

The Coronavirus According to Donald Trump

A tick-tock of the President's remarks over the last seven weeks as the COVID-19 viral disease outbreak grew into a pandemic.
March 12, 2020
(Digital collage by Hannah Yoest / photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

[Editor’s note: The timeline in this post will be continuously updated with President Trump’s latest statements about Coronavirus.]

One of Donald Trump’s superpowers is that his neverending firehose of corruption, lies, gaffes, and buffoonish behavior gushes out a flood of information that neither the human brain nor the news media is capable of comprehending or contextualizing.

Last night this superpower may have finally met its kryptonite as the reality of the coronavirus hit home in one dizzying evening. As a hoarse President Trump addressed the nation, a stunning and frankly scary onslaught of news about the virus exploded onto everyone’s smartphones: An NBA game mysteriously canceled. A travel ban on foreign nationals coming from Europe goes into effect. Jared Kushner is now in charge. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have contracted the virus. An NBA player has it. Stock market futures plunge again. The NBA season is canceled.

The contrast between the severity of breaking news and the narcissistic and cavalier treatment the pandemic has received from the White House is so sharp, it may pierce even the Fox News bubble.

So as the White House and the country grapple with what’s to come, it is important to cut through the MAGA-bullshit with a full accounting of just how unconscionably reckless Trump has been for the past seven weeks as the crisis of his presidency comes to a head. Here is a list of the most egregious false or misleading statements from the president and his top advisers about the coronavirus:

Trump Coronavirus Timeline

  • January 22

    “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.

  • January 31

    "Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. We have a tremendous relationship with China, which is a very positive thing. Getting along with China, getting along with Russia"

  • February 2

    “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

  • February 10

    “A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in.”

  • February 10

    “Coronavirus is not something that is going to have ripple effects.”

  • February 24

    “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. . . . Stock Market starting to look very good to me.”

  • February 24

    “You should seriously consider buying these [stock market] dips”

    Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow

    [Note: The Dow Jones ended February 24 at 27,960. It closed March 11 at 23,553]

  • February 25

    "We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama."

  • February 26

    “[The number of people infected is] going very substantially down, not up.” “The 15 [cases] within a couple of days, is going to be down to zero.”

    Donald Trump

    [Note: Two weeks later, as we compiled this list on March 11, there were over 1,000 confirmed cases in the United States]

  • February 27

    “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle.”

  • February 28

    “In my opinion, it’s a great time to buy stocks or into your 401k. I would be all in . . . let’s see if I’m right.”

    Eric Trump

    [Note: The stock market closed at 25,409 on February 28. It closed at 23,553 on March 11]

  • March 2

    “I’ve heard very quick numbers, that of months.”

    Donald Trump on a coronavirus vaccine

    [Note: Immunologist Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly said that a vaccine will not be available for a year or year and a half.]

  • March 6

    “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. . . . Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

  • March 6

    “I didn’t know people died from the flu.”

  • March 6

    “I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault...I'd rather have them stay on, personally.”

  • March 6

    “Anybody who wants a test gets a test.”

    Donald Trump

    [Note. This was a lie at the time and remains dangerously untrue today. The previous day, Vice President Mike Pence said, “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”]

  • March 6

    “We stopped it, it was a very early shut down, I would still argue to you that this thing is contained.”

  • March 6

    “Investors should think about buying these dips.”

    Larry Kudlow

    [Note: The Dow Jones closed at 25,864 on March 6, over 2,300 points lower than the previous time Kudlow suggested investors “buy the dip.”]

  • March 9

    “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!”

  • March 9

    “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths.”

  • March 10

    “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

  • March 11

    “If we get rid of the coronavirus problem quickly, we won’t need [economic] stimulus.”

  • March 11

    “That’s CNN. Fake news.”

    Donald Trump in response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta asking what he would “say to Americans who say you are not taking this seriously enough and that some of your statements don’t match what health experts are saying”

  • March 12

    “We have ’em very heavily tested. If an American’s coming back, or anybody’s coming back, we’re testing. We have a tremendous testing setup where people coming in have to be tested. And if they are positive, and if they’re able to get through—because, frankly, if they’re not, we’re not putting them on planes, if it shows positive…”

    Donald Trump

     [Note. This is not true.]

  • March 13

    “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

  • March 17

    “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

The “fake news” playbook reaches its limits when people are dying and forced to self-quarantine in their homes.

Over the past seven weeks, the president promised the country the virus would go away within a couple of days, then promised it would go away by April. He and his advisers repeatedly advised the public to buy stocks as the market plunged and stocks lost value.

These comments were not your usual Trumpian word salad. They were direct and declarative statements that happened amidst an ongoing outbreak—a national emergency and global pandemic—that required the U.S. government to be transparent, forthcoming, and responsive.

Finally, on Wednesday night he attempted a pivot to taking the growing threat seriously, mere hours after dismissing concerns as fake news.

Why would anyone trust or believe him?

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump, communications director for Jeb Bush 2016, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.