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Despite reality, Trump Jr says COVID numbers are 'almost nothing'

Trump Jr. wasn't simply wrong; he was cruel. But it's nevertheless the message Team Trump is taking to the public in the campaign's closing days.
Image: Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr., speaks as he tapes his speech for the first day of the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, on Aug. 24, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

At a campaign rally yesterday, Donald Trump suggested to his followers that they need not fear dying from COVID-19. "You know the bottom line, though?" the president asked rhetorically. "You're gonna get better. You're gonna get better."

The Republican incumbent pushed a related message online this morning, writing on Twitter this morning that coronavirus fatalities are "WAY DOWN," at least in part because, as he put it, "Therapeutics working!"

The timing of the president's boasts could've been better: the day Trump used this misguided rhetoric, the United States saw its 9 millionth confirmed case since the start of the crisis. Yesterday also saw more than 80,000 infections, the worst single day of the pandemic thus far -- and the third time in a week the country broke its daily case record.

What's more, the pandemic claimed the lives of roughly 1,000 Americans yesterday, pushing the overall death toll to nearly 230,000. The average daily fatalities is now getting worse, not better.

But as galling as the president's claims have been, the rhetoric from one of his adult sons was arguably worse. NBC News reported this morning:

Donald Trump Jr. falsely claimed Thursday that Covid-19 infection numbers have dwindled to "almost nothing," despite there being around 1,000 deaths reported in the U.S. the same day. In an interview on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle," the president's son said that medical experts who have been talking about a surge in cases are "truly morons."

He added that "the number is almost nothing" because "we've gotten control of this thing." (This might come as a surprise to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who insisted earlier this week, "We're not going to control the pandemic.")

As a rule, I tend not to pay too much attention to the latest rhetoric from Donald Trump Jr., in part because he's not in a position of authority, and in part because his father generates plenty of news on his own.

But last night's nonsense struck me as notable largely because, under normal circumstances, it'd serve as a political disaster. Putting aside familial connections, a surrogate for the president's re-election campaign, five days before Election Day, went on national television during a pandemic and insisted that coronavirus numbers have fallen to "almost nothing."

He did so on the exact same day his country's infection total topped 8 million, the U.S. set a single-day record for infections, and the virus claimed the lives of 1,000 of his fellow Americans. Hospitalization totals are every bit as heartbreaking, and pushing many facilities across the country to the limit.

Trump Jr. wasn't simply wrong; he was cruel. But this deep denial of our painful reality is nevertheless the message Team Trump is taking to the public in the campaign's closing days.