President Donald Trump made some shocking false claims about the coronavirus pandemic last week, including his assertion that "everybody" had "high-paying jobs" before COVID-19 hit the U.S. The president has been under fire for his last few speaking engagements, including a press conference on Tuesday where he was meant to announce police reforms in response to nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. Along the way, Trump praised himself for his handling of the coronavirus crisis so far.
"We had the best employment numbers in the history of our country. It's never happened before... Everybody was thrilled. Everybody had — just about — high-paying jobs," Trump said of the pre-coronavirus economy. This assertion struck many viewers as hyperbole, and analysts have been criticizing Trump's record on economic growth and job creation since long before the virus hit. In December, USA Today published an op-ed titled: "Trump Has Fallen Short of Goal to Turbocharge Job Growth."
Trump on the pre-coronavirus economy: "Everybody was thrilled. Everybody had, just about, high-paying jobs." (This needless to say is false.) pic.twitter.com/LM9T5UJl4l— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 16, 2020
This moment was just one of the points in Tuesday's speech that stuck out and drew massive criticism for the president. It came after he had finished reciting the prepared remarks on the teleprompter and switched to ad-libbing his speech. The president turned the subject away from protests, police violence and systemic racism to insist that he has handled all the issues of his presidency as well as could be expected — including "the virus that came from China."
Trump trotted out some of these points again on Saturday night when he hosted his first campaign rally since the coronavirus pandemic began in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There, he told the crowd that he wanted to "slow the testing down" so that the statistics of new cases and confirmed COVID-19 deaths would stop rising.
"When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you're gonna find more cases," Trump said. "So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please.' They test, and they test. We have tests that people don't know what's going on."
Spokespeople for the president later insisted that this was a tongue-in-cheek remark, with an administration official telling CNN: "He was obviously kidding." Still, even if that was true, critics pointed out that it would be little comfort to the families of over 120,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 in the last few months.
As Trump takes heat for his rhetoric, the effects have begun showing in the polls. On Thursday, a Fox News poll showed him lagging behind Democrat Joe Biden by 12 points in the 2020 election. Many of his opponents are turning their criticisms into calls to action, urging Americans to vote this fall.