It was seven months ago this week when Donald Trump first pushed a conspiracy theory related to hospitals and the coronavirus pandemic. As the president argued in late March, hospitals lacked the equipment and materials needed because staff might be stealing supplies.
"Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?" the Republican asked, adding, "We have that happening in numerous places."
None of this was true. In fact, the Trump administration was failing to supply hospitals with necessary resources, which led the president to falsely accuse hospital staff of widespread thefts.
Seven months later, against a backdrop of a brutal third peak, Trump peddled an entirely different conspiracy theory related to hospitals and the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reported over the weekend on the president's remarks at a campaign rally in Wisconsin:
Trump went further, pushing a conspiracy theory that hospitals are over-classifying coronavirus deaths because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" -- even though there is no evidence of that and experts say the count is likely under-reported.
As part of this unscripted line of attack, the Republican incumbent added, in reference to alleged hospital corruption, "Think of this incentive."
Right off the bat, it's worth acknowledging the depravity of rhetoric like Trump's. Since the start of the crisis, front-line medical workers have made enormous sacrifices, done life-saving work, and earned our respect and gratitude. For the president to both fail in his response to the crisis and falsely accuse heroes of corruption is appalling, even for him.
But it's also worth noting that Trump's comments did not go unnoticed. The American Medical Association, the nation's largest group of doctors, issued a statement over the weekend that didn't specifically reference the president by name, but nevertheless made clear that he's wrong:
"At a time when physicians and other health care professionals are providing care to a record number of COVID-19 patients amidst a third wave, there is misinformation about how patients are counted. Let's be clear: physicians are not inflating the number of COVID-19 patients. Research published in [the Journal of the American Medical Association] and CDC reports indicate the U.S. had significantly more deaths in 2020 than in previous years (excess deaths). Physicians and patients are making remarkable sacrifices and we continue urging all to wear a mask, physical distance, and wash your hands to reduce suffering, illness, and death."
Around the same time, National Nurses United, the nation's largest union and professional association of registered nurses, issued a related statement condemning Trump's rhetoric. The statement said, among other things, "This is a reminder why nurses are actively campaigning to elect Joe Biden as president."