US President Donald Trump said Monday he will soon relaunch his televised coronavirus briefings, signalling a bid to regain control of the message when public dismay at his handling of the pandemic risks sinking his reelection bid.
A fierce surge of COVID-19 case in populous states like Florida and Texas is straining Trump’s sunny insistence that the virus will just “disappear” to its breaking point.
Trump back on television
Polls show public trust in his management of the crisis plummeting and predict a drubbing by Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the election in just over 100 days.
Trump, a lifelong real estate salesman and more recently reality TV performer, says the real problem is that Americans just aren’t hearing the right news.
So probably from Tuesday, Trump will relaunch the regular evening televised briefings for coronavirus from the White House that he did until late April — often finding himself accused of giving confusing or misleading information.
“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public,” he told reporters. “We’re doing very well in so many different ways.”
Trump notes that other countries are also having problems with the coronavirus. He says, "When you watch the news, the local news, and you see it, and it's like all about the United States. They never like to talk about what's going on in the world."
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 20, 2020
Trump acknowledged a “big flare-up” of cases across the south and west of the country but once again distanced himself from responsibility for the problem, underlining that the disease is also ravaging “Mexico, Brazil, many countries in Europe, all over, Russia.”
“When you watch the news, the local news, and you see it, and it’s, it’s like all about the United States. They never like to talk about what’s going on in the world,” he said.
Trump said the briefings would focus on good news regarding vaccine development and therapeutics.
“We think we’re doing very well in that regard,” he said. “I think I’m going to be bringing in some of the great companies that are working very successfully.”
“We’re really coming up with some very good answers,” he said.
Public relations not on point?
Trump has great faith in his ability before the cameras. He has transformed the image of the US presidency during his first term with unprecedented streams of press conferences, tweets and rallies.
But his previous spell as the nation’s pandemic-spokesman in chief ended badly in late April.
Trump often turned what were billed as opportunities to provide the anxious public with information into testy exchanges with reporters in the White House briefing room.
Read more: Dr. Trump: A gift of coronavirus?
He finally ditched the events after a PR fiasco where he mused on air about the possibility of injecting household disinfectant to combat COVID-19.
He later said he had been speaking “sarcastically,” although there was no evidence of that at the time.
Mistrust of Trump increases and polls slide
The president has consistently sought to play down the severity of the health crisis, hoping that voters will instead focus on what he touts as his good management of the economy.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” he once again claimed that the virus, which has killed more than 140,000 Americans and caused massive economic disruption, would somehow go away by itself.
Trump says he is bringing back the daily coronavirus briefings starting tomorrow because they got good ratings. “I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television, and there’s never been anything like it,” he says.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 20, 2020
“I’ll be right eventually,” he said.
But with the virus on the rebound, he finds himself accused of failing to lead.
Biden has opened a double-digit lead in election polls, and an ABC/ Washington Post poll released Friday showed nearly two-thirds of Americans mistrust Trump on the coronavirus.
Interviewer Chris Wallace told the president that a new Fox opinion poll showed Biden with a substantial lead over Trump not only on his ability to manage the pandemic (with a 17-point edge) and to deal with racial unrest (by 21 points), but even — by a single point — on handling the economy, long a Trump strong point.
And a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has Biden leading Trump among registered voters nationwide by a resounding 15-point margin, 55-to-40 percent.
Trump dismissed such polling as “fake,” saying White House surveys show him winning both nationally and in key swing states.
Trump, nevertheless, appears to be looking forward to his chance to get back to the briefing room podium.
“We had very successful briefings. I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching. In the history of cable television, there’s never been anything like it,” he said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk