Wednesday September 22, 2021

Alternate facts

October 08, 2020

In the early hours of Friday, October 2, US President Trump tweeted that he and Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The very next day Donald Trump was moved to the Walter Reed Medical Center just outside of Washington DC. Statements coming out of the White House about Trump’s health, including from the president’s personal physician, continue to be confusing at best.

It has been reported the president is in “good spirits” and moving him to the hospital was just a cautionary step. It has also been reported by senior White House officials that Trump’s vital signs have been concerning and that there is not yet a clear path to full recovery.

The president’s positive diagnosis came less than a week after a large gathering with over 150 guests took place at the White House to nominate a new justice to the US Supreme Court. Guests were seen mingling closely with each other with no masks, in clear violation of guidelines by public health officials.

Since then a dozen or so attendees of this event have tested positive for Covid-19. Among the infected are senators, close advisors and even the White House press secretary. All of these people, once they entered the White House bubble were made to feel invincible. It is amazing how a reckless leader can give otherwise mature people such a false sense of confidence.

The flouting of health guidelines by the Trump White House has been a hallmark of his administration throughout the course of this pandemic. For some strange reason, the president considers wearing a mask a sign of weakness. He has repeatedly denounced mask mandates by various governors as an assault on Americans’ freedoms.

As a result, wearing a mask or not has become a question of political ideology in the US, causing the country to suffer the worst Coronavirus record in the world with over 210,000 Americans dead and over 7.5 million infected. While most of the high-level attendees to the White House event will get excellent medical care and will recover, many regular folks in the country have not been so lucky. Thousands are still in hospitals and millions are unemployed.

More than anything else, Trump’s behaviour towards recommendations by public health officials has led millions of Americans to ignore health guidelines, with very serious consequences for their health and even their lives. When the country’s top public health experts have disagreed with Trump, he has simply removed them or pushed them out of the public eye.

Just two days before Trump’s positive test result, the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden took place. While Trump’s bullying and rude behavior during the debate will be one for history books, he openly mocked Joe Biden for always wearing a mask – a sign of weakness in Trump’s imagined macho world. Given Trump’s health now, it is unclear if he will be able to participate in any more debates.

In run up to the November 3 presidential elections, Trump has been working hard to deflect the country’s attention from the pandemic and his disastrous handling of it – quite impossible now that he himself is infected.

Trump continues to claim that his administration has done a better job than any other country in the world, never mind the facts. Here is a man that creates his own set of facts, ‘alternate facts’ as his close adviser Kellyanne Conway, herself now infected, once famously said. However, the country is fast learning how dangerous alternate facts can be when they are spun by the person at the very top of the country’s leadership structure.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC.