President Trump has called many things hoaxes over the years — the investigation into his 2016 campaign’s dealings with Russia, his impeachment, global warming — but on Monday he called into question the existence of an epidemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans.
During a flurry of activity on his Twitter account, Trump retweeted a message from game show host Chuck Woolery that claimed “everyone is lying” about the coronavirus as part of a plot to sabotage the economy and hurt Trump’s reelection campaign.
“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19,” wrote Woolery in the message promoted by Trump. “Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most ,that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”
Asked about the retweet at a briefing later Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that the “notion of the tweet was to point out the fact that when we use science, we have to use it in a way that is not political.”
A key problem keeping the economy from coming back is the 135,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, per tracking by Johns Hopkins University, which reported 61,352 new cases and 685 deaths on Saturday. Woolery didn’t say whether he thought the death toll was faked. Florida set a record for most single-day cases of any state so far with more than 15,000 reported Saturday, the same day Walt Disney World reopened in Orlando. Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi and Texas have all set record highs for daily deaths over the last week.
Trump sometimes uses “hoax” as an all-purpose denigration of opinions — or facts — he doesn’t like. In February he called criticism of his administration’s response to the coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax,” but he didn’t quite deny the existence of the epidemic, as Woolery appeared to do in his tweet.
There is no obvious precedent for a president repeating criticism that a key agency in his own administration — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is lying, except for Trump himself, and the many times he has accused the FBI and the intelligence services of intentionally undermining him.