It took about two full minutes from President Donald Trump’s tweet confirming that he and Melania Trump had both tested positive for COVID-19 for the Twittersphere to go quite literally crazy with conspiracies.
As some people speculated that the conspiracy theories would take hold come daybreak, the head of Instagram tweeted: “It’s already starting...”
A number of Twitter users have pushed the theory that the president is “faking” the diagnosis to get out of any more disastrous debates or to distract the world from his $750 tax scandal.
Author Linda Sarsour posed the question whether the debate played a role.
Others, like curriculum writer Jodi Austin, suggested that a full recovery will be an “added bonus of ‘proving’ that it’s just a mild cold when he doesn’t become catastrophically ill. It’s an insane strategy that could be their last hope.”
More sage posters, like author and self-described conspiracy-theory debunker Mike Rothschild offered this: “The galaxy brain take is that Trump is faking COVID to get out of the debates or distract from the tax stuff. But his image depends on being a bull god street fighter Adonis who outworks men half his age. He wouldn’t pretend to be sick and weak. If anything, he’d cover it up.”
Yet another camp of conspiracy theorists believes that the president is faking the diagnosis so he can say how quickly he recovered and how COVID-19 is not at all as bad as it seems. A poster named Catherine Kenyon theorizes that Trump needs to change the conversation for two or three weeks. “At which time, Trump can emerge hale and hearty and say that Covid barely laid a glove on him.”
The Hoarse Whisperer tweeted to more than 314,000 followers that the diagnosis is, in fact, real. “To folks speculating Trump might be lying about having COVID as a ruse of some kind: 1) His narcissism makes him see being sick as being weak. He would never voluntarily make himself look weak. 2) He can’t campaign for two weeks. His narcissism needs that ego fuel. He has it.”
Many of those posting under Trump’s announcement wish him well, including several who say they cried at the news he tested positive. Others gave advice, including not to drink bleach or ingest disinfectants or inject daylight. Many more posted videos of him mocking his presidential opponent Joe Biden for wearing a mask and being cautious.
One Twitter user tweeting under the handle Mrs. Krassenstein, lectured the president on his behavior, telling him, “You should be ashamed of yourself for calling this virus a hoax and for holding rallies after you were exposed to Hope Hicks. I wish you well Mr. President, but you have no one to blame but yourself.” She added a followup post, “Now can you please stand up like a leader and stop downplaying the virus? Can you please stop mocking mask wearing? If you wore a mask, you would probably not have gotten COVID.”
Some posts, like WMM podcast and CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart, floated the idea that these cascading scandals somehow replace each other. “This is the world we live in. The Kimberly [Guilfoyle sexual harassment] story gave us a break from the Trump the racist story. The Melania tapes gave us a break from the Kimberly story. And the Covid diagnosis gave us a break from the Melania tape story. NUTS.”
And even some far-right Twitter users—already prone to conspiratorial thinking—seemed to indulge the idea that the president would fake a positive coronavirus test to change the news focus. Kurt Schlichter, a conservative media star who frequently fantasizes about killing Democrats in a new civil war, wrote, “I’m not saying that Donald Trump is pretending to have Covid to cause the left to freak out in a frenzy of murder wishes and to wash all the garbage stories off the front page, but I’m not saying I’m not saying that.” The take was so hot that he retweeted himself to boost it again for his audience.
Among other memes, jokes about the Trump couple actually kissing each other, and wishes of ill-will and speedy recovery, one user sought to wish the president “Thoughts and prayers for a quick recovfefe.”