The director of communications for President Trump’s reelection campaign, Erin Perrine, told Fox News that Trump’s COVID-19 infection makes him more qualified than his opponent, Joe Biden, for the presidency.
Perrine’s arguments came in spite of Trump’s repeated disregard for basic social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of himself and those around him, including a recent “joy ride” in the presidential SUV, which drew outrage from medical professionals for putting special agents in the vehicle at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Fox anchor Sandra Smith asked if Trump planned to “change his messaging” regarding coronavirus in light of his recent diagnosis last week. She also asked if he would stop “downplaying” the pandemic.
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Perrine said Trump’s recent hospital stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center would give him new insights into how to lead.
“Firsthand experience is always going to change how someone relates to something that’s been happening,” Perrine said. “The president has coronavirus right now. He is battling it head on, as toughly, as only President Trump can. And of course that’s going to change the way that he speaks of it because it will be a firsthand experience.”
When pressed on Trump’s lack of serious attention paid to the coronavirus when compared to other campaign issues, such as the economy, Perrine said his recent ordeal made him better qualified to run the country than his opponent.
“He has experience as commander-in-chief, he has experience as a businessman, he has experience, now, fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences — Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those,” she said.
The Trump campaign is now attacking Biden for…not contracting coronavirus.
“He has experience — now — fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those." pic.twitter.com/Qk0Qc8l6q9
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) October 5, 2020
Hours later, Trump announced he would be leaving Walter Reed and returning to the White House Monday evening. In a tweet making the announcement, Trump did not appear to use his “firsthand experiences” to advise people in the U.S. to take COVID-19 more seriously.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump wrote.
In spite of Trump’s rosy words, however, his own medical team later suggested to reporters that he wasn’t “out of the woods” quite yet, and the possibility of his condition worsening could last through this coming weekend.
Trump’s tweet appeared to minimize the risk of COVID-19, consistent with his strategy he admitted privately to journalist Bob Woodward in March, when he said he “wanted to always play it down” to prevent a panic among the populace.
In February, Trump also described the disease to Woodward as being “deadly,” which strikingly contradicted his public remarks.
More than 7.6 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic reached the U.S., with nearly 215,000 having died from the disease so far.
Polling from over the weekend suggests that Trump’s diagnosis — and his “firsthand experiences” in being treated for it — have made Americans less sure of his aptness to lead on the issue. A Morning Consult poll, conducted from October 2 to the 3, found that 43 percent of voters became less confident in Trump’s ability to handle the pandemic due to his diagnosis, with only 15 percent saying it made them more confident in the president.
That same poll found that 59 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat disapproved of his handling of the crisis overall, with only 37 percent saying they approve of how he’s led the response to the pandemic.
Recent events have not caused pro-Biden voters to shift to Trump, with a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showing the Democratic challenger leading the incumbent by 10 points — a margin that is wider than it has been over the past couple of weeks.