In late February, at a rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump insisted that concern about the Coronavirus was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats. Now, over 164,000 Americans have been confirmed to have been infected by the virus and over 3,100 Americans have died — including 500 just on Monday — and former Vice President Al Gore has joined the chorus of those hammering the president for his past refusals to take the virus seriously. During an appearance on CNN this Monday night, Gore mockingly suggested that Trump had been attempting to essentially gaslight the virus out of existence.
‘I’m afraid many Americans have been misled into [believing] some of his earlier statements about using the word hoax — and he used it in a specialized way — but saying it was going to disappear, those kinds of things. I feel badly for those who believe that stuff and have not been protecting themselves. Now, I think the president — to his credit — has been moving away from that. I think he’s learned that you can’t gaslight a virus. You’ve really got to pay attention to what the scientific facts are.’
Former Vice President Al Gore says he gives President Trump credit for recently changing his rhetoric about the spread of novel coronavirus
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) March 31, 2020
Trump’s gaslighting has continued into the present situation, too. He’s insisted, for example, that he always took the virus seriously — but it’s not as though the February rally at which he indicated the exact otherwise was secret. The video is publicly available!
This Monday, Trump even insisted that his past “individual statements” about the outbreak are “all true.” As he put it, addressing CNN’s Jim Acosta:
‘It will go away, and we’re going to have a great victory, and it’s people like… CNN that say things like that. It’s why people just don’t listen to CNN anymore… I don’t want to cause panic in the country. I could cause panic much better than even you.’
CNN's @Acosta reads Trump his previous statements downplaying the coronavirus and asks what he would tell Americans upset over his handling of the crisis.
Trump in return attacks CNN, and says the question is "nasty" and "snarky." pic.twitter.com/xl6u4V3u67
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) March 30, 2020
Gore’s suggestion of the dangers of Trump’s past rhetoric mirrors comments that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered over the weekend, which incensed the president and some of his top Republican allies. She insisted, in short, that the president’s behavior, including his dismissal of the virus’s significance during the early weeks of the outbreak, has been “deadly.”
As she put it:
‘His denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where it’s needed is deadly… I don’t know what the scientists said to him: When did this president know about this and what did he know?.. As the president fiddles, people are dying.’
Pelosi: "His denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where it's needed is deadly … I don't know what the scientists said to him: When did this president know about this and what did he know? … As the president fiddles, people are dying." pic.twitter.com/YmzlVG66ko
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 29, 2020
Needed ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies could have been produced earlier in the outbreak and potentially help support people who are suffering and dying. As of early Tuesday morning, the U.S. death toll has hit 3,163, multiple times ahead of the death toll in South Korea, where the first case was officially confirmed on about the same day. The death toll has grown amidst the president’s failures to get supplies to where they’re needed.
This past weekend, he revealed that federal guidelines demanding social distancing would be extended to at least April 30, suggesting a long struggle for the U.S.