A short time ago we were having an editorial discussion about how to capture in a headline President Trump’s claims of a Coronavirus “hoax.” We wanted to be clear that he did not appear to be saying that the novel Coronavirus itself didn’t exist. He was saying that the public discussion of it by Democrats was “the hoax.” This was distinct from his other claims that media coverage of it by news organizations he perceives as his enemies were a “hoax”. In each case of course he has insisted that public discussion has the sole aim of damaging him politically and is simply part and parcel of the Mueller probe, impeachment and the binary world in which every public issue is really about Donald Trump.
What became clear to me is how easy it is for news organizations to get lost in the President’s rabbit holes. The truth is the President is usually just tossing out random claims and accusations and attacks to get whatever response or rise he’s trying for at the moment. It’s very hard and in many cases simply impossible to reverse engineer or retrofit these statements into something having any coherent or logical meaning. The best you can say is that while the virus is spreading around the world and his administration is beginning to treat it as a grave and critical issue he is simultaneously out on the campaign hustings calling it a “hoax” while also at the same time bragging about how good a job he’s doing combatting it.
None of this makes any sense. Yet, there he is. The President of the United States. Claiming over and over at a raucous campaign rally that it’s all a “hoax.”