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Some People 'Have The Sniffles': Trump Downplays The Coronavirus's Severity

"Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world," President Trump said in an interview that aired Sunday. "I'm glad we do [testing], but it really skews the numbers." In fact, cases are rising at a faster rate than tests.
Patrick Semansky
"Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world," President Trump said in an interview that aired Sunday. "I'm glad we do [testing], but it really skews the numbers." In fact, cases are rising at a faster rate than tests.

President Trump downplayed the danger of the coronavirus, claiming in an interview that aired Sunday that many cases are simply people who "have the sniffles."

"Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day," Trump said in his interview with Fox News Sunday. "They have the sniffles, and we put it down as a test." He added that many of those sick "are going to get better very quickly."

More than 3.7 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, and more than 140,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Cases and hospitalizations are spiking in many parts of the United States. While the number of tests conducted has risen, new confirmed cases are rising at a faster rate than tests. But Trump again falsely asserted that testing is to blame for the spike in identified infections.

"Cases are up. Many of those cases shouldn't even be cases," Trump told interviewer Chris Wallace. "Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world. ... I'm glad we do [testing], but it really skews the numbers." He added: "We're creating trouble."

Told by Wallace that he could appear to be downplaying the coronavirus, Trump called it "serious" but added that the U.S. has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. Many nations, including Italy and France, have higher case-fatality rates than the U.S., but many other countries, like Australia, have lower rates.

Wallace pointed out that hundreds of Americans a day are dying from the virus.

"Excuse me, it's all too much," Trump retorted, before blaming China. "There shouldn't be one case. It came from China. They should have never let it escape; they should have never let it out, but it is what it is."

The president said he has a "great relationship" with Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor on the White House's coronavirus task force. But Trump also said that Fauci is "a little bit of an alarmist" who has made a few mistakes.

Wallace reminded Trump that he has also said things that have not turned out to be true, like saying earlier this year that the virus will at some point "disappear."

"I'll be right eventually," the president responded.

On bases named after Confederate generals

Trump also controversially weighed in on matters of race in America.

Defending the Confederate flag, for example, he said that for many people, it's not a racist symbol and that he's not offended by it, and then he deflected.

"I'm not offended, either, by Black Lives Matter," Trump said. "That's freedom of speech." Trump, however, had called a proposed Black Lives Matter sign in New York City a "symbol of hate."

He also again spoke out against renaming military bases that are named after Confederate generals — despite the Army being open to that.

"I don't care what the military says," Trump said, adding: "What are we going to name it? You going to name it after the Rev. Al Sharpton?"

In the 1980s and 1990s, Sharpton was a controversial figure in New York City who spoke out against police violence. He has now become a prominent Black television personality on MSNBC.

But bringing up Sharpton was curious, considering that many would argue that renaming the bases isn't solely about race or even about race at all. After all, the generals those bases are named after fought against the United States.

On health care and the election

On policy, Trump boasted that he would be getting major initiatives put in place on health care and immigration within the next month.

"No one would have done what I'm going to do in the next four weeks," he said.

"We're signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan," Trump claimed, despite not being able to pass a health care bill since taking office and despite there being no push for one in Congress at this point.

On the presidential election, Trump cast several aspersions on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's mental fitness, including: "Joe doesn't know he's alive, OK? Do the American people want that?" And if Biden wins, Trump claimed, "Religion will be gone."

Biden leads in polls against Trump, as Trump has fallen in polls during the pandemic and amid protests against racism. A majority of Americans say they disapprove of Trump's handling of both — which were key parts of the Fox interview.

Despite his current standing, many strategists expect a close election. But because of the pandemic, a close election may not be decided for days after Election Day because of mail-in ballots that have to be postmarked, not received, by Election Day.

Some 70% of Americans could cast ballots by mail this year, in part so they don't potentially expose themselves to the coronavirus by waiting in lines to vote in person. Trump has spoken out against mail-in voting, despite utilizing it himself in recent elections.

More Republicans are saying they'll vote in person than Democrats, which could show Trump leading in some places until mail-in votes come in post-Election Day. That's something Trump fears, and he's already casting doubt about its legitimacy.

"I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do," Trump claimed without evidence.

Asked if that means he's suggesting he might not accept the results of the election, Trump added: "I have to see."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.