On his coronavirus infection, Trump points at Gold Star families

On his coronavirus infection, Trump said grieving Gold Star family members sometimes "come within an inch of my face."
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives at Morristown Municipal Airport to attend a fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster in Morristown, N.J., on Oct. 1, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

The day before Donald Trump announced that he'd tested positive for the coronavirus, one of the big stories out of the White House was that Hope Hicks had also been infected. The president, oddly enough, appeared to blame soldiers and law enforcement officials.

"She's a very warm person," Trump said, referring to Hicks. "When soldiers and law enforcement come up to her," he added, she's reluctant to turn them away.

Hearing the president blame them for her infection was unexpected. Today's comments, however, were even stranger.

President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that he might have contracted Covid-19 from Gold Star family members who were too close to him when telling stories of their loved ones who died in the line of duty.

As Politico's report noted, the president spoke with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo via phone, and reflected on his meeting with Gold Star families on Sunday, Sept. 27. "[T]hey all came in, and they all talk about their son and daughter and father," Trump said. "And, you know, they all came up to me, and they tell me a story."

As the Republican explained, grieving family members would approach him to "tell me a story about, 'My son, sir, was in Iraq.' Or, 'He was in Afghanistan.' And, 'Sir, he did this, and he did that, and then he charged in order to save his friends.' And, 'Yes, sir, he was killed, but he saved his friends. He's so brave, sir.'"

Describing his reactions to these families, Trump added, "I can't say, 'Back up, stand 10 feet,' you know? I just can't do it... I can't back up, Maria, and say, 'Give me room. I want room. Give me 12 feet. Stay 12 feet away when you talk.' ... [The Gold Star family members] come within an inch of my face, sometimes. They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me. And they do. And, frankly, I'm not telling them to back up. I'm not doing it."

Right off the bat, it's worth emphasizing that Trump's timeline is suspect. While we don't yet know exactly when the president contracted the virus, the event with Judge Amy Coney Barrett was the day before the event with Gold Star families -- and given the number of people at the Rose Garden gathering who subsequently tested positive, it appears to be the principal culprit.

But even putting that aside, what would possess a president -- ahead of his re-election bid, while millions of ballots are being cast -- to suggest grieving family members of fallen heroes are somehow responsible for his ailment? Especially in light of his earlier clashes with Gold Star families?

In last night's debate, Vice President Mike Pence tried to assure the public that Trump "not only respects but reveres all of those who served in our armed forces, and any suggestion otherwise it's ridiculous."

There's quite a bit of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. The president complaining this morning about Gold Star families standing too close to him makes Pence's rhetoric just a little more difficult to believe.

Update: The White House insisted this afternoon that Trump wasn't trying to blame the Gold Star families, but rather, he was "merely" noting that he was "potentially exposed" in that "timeframe."