Despite repeated failures, Trump offers new death toll forecast

When a president finds it necessary to revise a projected death toll six times in 18 days, there's a problem.
Image: TOPSHOT-US-HEALTH-VIRUS
A body is moved from a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue to a vehicle at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 2020.Bryan R. Smith / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

As of this morning, according to NBC News' latest tally, there are nearly 1.27 million cases of the coronavirus in the United States. The death toll, meanwhile, is nearly 77,000.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump appeared on Fox News this morning and offered yet another death toll forecast.

"They said, 'Sir, you have to close the country.' Nobody ever heard of a thing like this, but they were right because if I didn't we would have lost 2 million, 2 and a half million, maybe more than that people, and we'll be at 100,000, 110,000 -- the lower level of what was projected if we did the shutdown."

Let's take a moment to review the last few weeks.

On Monday, April 20, the president said he believed the overall American death toll from the pandemic would be between 50,000 and 60,000 people. Later that week, the president's forecast had already been exposed as tragically wrong.

Exactly one week later, on Monday, April 27, Trump said the overall American death toll would "probably" be between 60,000 and 70,000 people. It took about four days for this projection to be discredited, too.

On Wednesday, April 29, the president suggested the number of fatalities in the United States could be as low as 65,000. Predictably, we soon after passed that projected total.

On Sunday, May 3, Trump acknowledged that he was moving the goalposts again. "I used to say 65,000," the Republican said, pointing to a total he promoted just a few days earlier. "And now I'm saying 80,000 or 90,000."

At the same event, the president upped the projection once more: "Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people."

All of which led to this morning's revised total of between 100,000 and 110,000 fatalities.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, when I say I don't know why Trump keeps doing this, I'm not being coy or facetious. I honestly have no idea. There is no upside to a president, every few days, presenting a new projected death toll, seeing the actual number climb, and then starting the process anew.

Obviously, we're dealing with an unfolding crisis and our collective understanding of the details is changing frequently. But when a president finds it necessary to revise a projected death toll six times in 18 days, there's a problem.