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Trump Says His Only Failure In ‘Phenomenal’ Coronavirus Response Was ‘Public Relations’

Topline

President Trump told talk show host Greta Van Susteren on Thursday that he believes his handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been “great” and “phenomenal,” despite overwhelming public sentiment to the contrary, which he blamed on bad “public relations.”

Key Facts

Trump repeated his frequent claim that the virus will soon be defeated, stating the U.S. is “rounding the corner on COVID,” despite the Centers for Disease Control reporting 1,224 new deaths on Thursday for a total of 196,277 American deaths.

Trump once again touted his travel ban on China as evidence of a “great” response to the virus, claiming it saved 2.5 million lives, a figure he was unable to provide a source for, chalking it up to “my opinion” and adding that it’s “according to many people.”

Overall, Trump said he has almost no regrets about his virus response, declaring he did a “phenomenal job” on everything except “public relations,” on which he says “my people got out-played.”

“No matter what you do… they say, ‘well it wasn’t good enough,’” Trump said, dismissing criticism as little more than a knee-jerk response from the opposition and “standard fare for the Democrats.”

Trump cited the speedy development of a vaccine as one example of his successes on the virus, even as CDC Director Robert Redfield and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci both say a virus won’t be widely available until well into 2021, contradicting Trump’s considerably speedier timeline.

Trump took aim at his Democratic counterparts, calling the Obama administration’s H1N1 response a “total disaster” and claiming a Biden administration wouldn’t have a vaccine for “three or four years” because “they couldn’t get anything through the FDA.”

Chief Critic

“The mask issue was a critical one,” said Olivia Troye, a Republican and former coronavirus adviser for Vice President Mike Pence who endorsed Biden for president Thursday, calling Trump’s early opposition to masks “detrimental” to the coronavirus response and asserting the effects of politicization “still linger” today. “If we had gotten ahead on that and stressed the importance of it, we could have slowed the spread significantly.” 

Big Number

56%. That’s the percent of Americans who disapprove of Trump’s handling of coronavirus in the RealClearPolitics Average, compared to 42% who approve. That’s down considerably from his peak coronavirus rating in late March, when he had 51% approval and 45% disapproval.

Surprising Fact

A Columbia University study in May found that if social distancing measures had been put in place one week earlier in March, 36,000 lives would’ve been saved. Instituting them two weeks earlier, they found, would have saved 54,000.

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