In need of an enemy, Trump turns his sights on hospitals

It takes a special amount of chutzpah for a president to fail to deliver necessary medical supplies, then accuse medical facilities of nefarious misdeeds.
Empty hospital bed near sunny window
Empty hospital bed near sunny windowFS Productions / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

As Donald Trump sees it, someone will be blamed for the United States' response to the coronavirus crisis, and he's desperately scrambling to make sure the responsibility doesn't fall on him. NBC News reported overnight that the president "has been hedging his bets" by pointing to all sorts of possible culprits.

Trump, who seems to feel most comfortable when he has an enemy, has spent weeks lashing out at Democrats, governors, journalists, China, the Obama administration, and even General Motors. Yesterday, however, the Republican went in an unexpected direction: as the Washington Post reported, the president turned his sights on hospitals.

President Trump has been focused on shifting blame for whatever becomes of the coronavirus outbreak. And on Sunday, he set about blaming hospitals and states for the well-established shortages of equipment to deal with the situation. During the daily White House coronavirus briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump suggested that hospitals had squandered or done worse with masks and were "hoarding" ventilators, and that states were requesting equipment despite not needing it.

Marveling at the increased need for masks in medical facilities, the president argued yesterday, "Something's going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? ... And we have that happening in numerous places."

He added, "I don't think it's hoarding. I think maybe it's worse than hoarding."

A New York Times report helped set the record straight.

The president seemed to be suggesting that New York hospitals were lying about how many masks they needed.... In fact, hospitals throughout the country have said the surge in coronavirus patients requires that doctors and nurses change masks repeatedly throughout the day to protect themselves from getting infected. That has created a huge shortage of masks.

It takes a special amount of chutzpah for a president to fail to deliver necessary medical supplies during a crisis, only to have that same president accuse medical facilities of nefarious misdeeds.

Trump went on to suggest that he's not certain that his theories about hospitals are true. "Check it out, check it out," he told reporters. "I don't know. I don't know. I think that's for other people to figure out."

All of which is to say, the president making unfounded accusations against hospitals doesn't have any proof to substantiate his ideas, but he wants to present his ideas to the public and expects journalists to bolster his theories.

In case this isn't already painfully obvious, medical professionals are doing heroic, dangerous, and life-saving work right now. They deserve our gratitude, not presidential nonsense.