The first question White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany fielded during Tuesday’s press conference was not about the Supreme Court fight, but rather about the milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 that the United States has now reached.
CNN’s Jim Acosta began by asking: “What do you say to Americans who are outraged over this and blame this administration for so many lives lost in this country?” After McEnany responded by saying that the number of dead Americans could have reached two million by now, Acosta specifically brought up the president’s most recent attempt to downplay the severity of the coronavirus.
At his Monday evening rally in Ohio, the president told supporters that the virus “really affects” elderly people with heart problems and basically “nobody” young. “Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system,” he says. “But it affects virtually nobody, it’s an amazing thing.” From there, he pivoted directly to, “Open your schools!”
Quoting Trump’s words to McEnany, Acosta pointed out that the president previously told Rage author Bob Woodward, “It’s not just older people, it’s young people too” and asked, “At 200,000 deaths, shouldn’t the president be telling people the truth about this virus at his rallies?”
“The president is telling people the truth,” McEnany insisted before accusing Acosta of taking Trump’s words “out of context.”
“I’m not taking it out of context. If I said he was talking about younger people, then I’m not taking it out of context,” Acosta shot back. “Young people can contract the coronavirus and then spread it to older people,” he added. “We’ve known this from the very beginning. And for the president of the United States at 200,000 deaths to go out to his rallies and say something like it ‘affects virtually nobody’ and that in some states it’s not affecting young people, that is glossing over the fact—and really diminishing the fact—that young people can catch this virus and spread it older people. Younger people can also be sick and killed by this virus.”
Later, when another reporter asked McEnany if the president plans to publicly acknowledge or “express remorse” for the 200,000 American deaths, the press secretary said that “even one life lost” keeps Trump “up at night,” but would not confirm that he will address the tragic milestone.