According to one prominent tally, over 143,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus, and the University of Washington projects that the total U.S. Coronavirus death toll could surpass 224,000 by November 1. That’s a staggering level of loss of life and all of the accompanying tragedy, and it’s unfolding amidst an economic and social upheaval wrought in significant part by the Trump administration’s failure to effectively contain the virus. The Trump administration’s behavior has exacerbated the crises. Amidst the chaos early Monday, what was the president focused on? Television ratings! Trump announced that press conferences put on by the White House Coronavirus task force would supposedly resume the following day, and in his announcement, he offered outrageous praise for the television ratings of past press conferences from the same task force.
As CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and New York Times reporter Peter Baker summarize, Trump said from the Oval Office:
‘We’re going to give you a lot of briefings in the next week and the next few weeks… I’ll do it at 5 o’clock like we were doing. We had a good slot. A lot of people were watching… 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.’
"We're going to give you a lot of briefings in the next week and the next few weeks," President Trump says in the Oval Office. He'll bring back his briefings starting tomorrow. "I’ll do it at 5 o’clock like we were doing. We had a good slot. A lot of people were watching.”
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) July 20, 2020
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
First of all — it’s not even remotely clear that his claim is correct. There have been plenty of high-profile events throughout the history of television, well outside the context of Trump and the Coronavirus task force briefings. Additionally, and perhaps more relevantly — Americans are dying, and the president is concerned about television ratings. People have tuned in to the press conferences because they’re forums for White House officials to hopefully deliver potentially lifesaving information to Americans. Instead, Trump has manipulated Americans into watching him deliver nonsensical rants and then bragged about the accompanying tv ratings.
David Carney, who serves as an adviser to Texas’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott, summed up the situation well when he commented recently that the “president got bored with” the pandemic. Even now, he’s not focusing on the crisis. He’s focusing on the television ratings.
“The president got bored with it,” David Carney, an adviser to the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said of the pandemic. He noted that Mr. Abbott, a Republican, directs his requests to Mr. Pence, with whom he speaks two to three times a week.
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) July 20, 2020