For two consecutive nights, as President Trump was barnstorming swing states, his two eldest sons appeared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, where they dismissed the threat posed by the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Eric Trump made his appearance. His interview was centered on the unfounded claim that social media companies were “censoring” conservatives.
“The one thing you don’t want to do to Americans is take away their free speech. It’s our First Amendment right for a reason,” he said, conflating Twitter’s efforts to stem disinformation with government censorship of speech.
“I’m telling you,” he added, “people aren’t happy about it. I think it’s probably become the number one issue in politics in the last couple of weeks.”
A claim that social media companies adding warnings to false claims by the president (which is really the recent spur for this frustration) is the number one issue in politics is unquestionably ridiculous. That the son of the president, someone who has been on the campaign trail stumping for his father, would say this with sincerity during a period when deaths from the coronavirus are on the rise is simply callous.
On Thursday, though, his brother Donald Trump Jr. tried to tell Ingraham that deaths weren’t on the rise.
“The reality is this,” he said. “I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new cases, but I was like why aren’t they talking about deaths? Oh, oh: because the number is almost nothing.”
As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reported, Trump Jr.’s claim that deaths were down to “almost nothing” was a function of his making a mistake that has been made repeatedly over the course of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks coronavirus deaths by confirming death certificates. Those certificates can come days or weeks after the deaths — deaths that are reported by counties and states in near real time. So the CDC numbers necessarily and demonstrably show fewer recent deaths but, over time, equivalent long-term totals.
It’s like arguing that there are very few coronavirus infections after scaling back testing for the virus. Which, of course, is what President Trump would like to do.
As his sons were misinforming Fox News viewers, Trump was misinforming attendees at his rallies.
“A safe vaccine is coming very quickly — you’re going to have it momentarily — that eradicates the virus,” he told a crowd in Arizona on Wednesday. “And we’re rounding the turn regardless.”
This assertion from Trump that the country is “rounding the turn” on the virus even without a vaccine is as untrue as his son’s claim that deaths are falling. Both cases and deaths are up, the former leading the latter by about two weeks. On Thursday, the country saw