Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis early Friday morning presented his most loyal supporters with a challenge: how to square the president’s frequent claims that the pandemic would “disappear” with the fact that he ended up being hospitalized because of it.
After more than six months of Trump downplaying the virus and a death toll that’s passed 200,000, Trump supporters have already developed some ways of rationalizing away the disease, including fixating on the uncertain value of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment and claiming that masks can’t stop the spread.
But the coronavirus outbreak in Trump’s inner circle—which now includes Trump, first lady Melania Trump, senior aide Hope Hicks, and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel—has put Trumpworld’s rosy outlook squarely at odds with reality.
And so, some turned to conspiracy.
DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero, a QAnon supporter and failed congressional candidate whose call to “#FireFauci” Trump once retweeted, intoned darkly about whether Trump’s foes had somehow laced his debate microphone with the coronavirus.
“Trump was fine until the debate, where they set up microphones & podiums for him,” Tesoriero wrote. “Incubation period is usually 2 - 3 days. He tests positive a couple of days after the debate. I put nothing past the left. NOTHING.”
Tesoriero, a host at conspiracy theory hub InfoWars, went on to suggest that Democrats were weaponizing the virus against Republicans.
“Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus but the list of Republicans goes on and on?” Tesoriero tweeted.
It is common for conspiracy theorists to simply invent even more far-fetched tales when their predictions end up being contradicted by reality. But Friday seemed to test even the most lurid of conspiracists.
Followers of the ludicrous pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, for example, suggested that Trump’s coronavirus was, perversely, good news. QAnon fans are convinced that Trump is secretly at war with a cabal of cannibal-pedophiles in the Democratic Party, and will conduct a bloody purge of his political foes in a long-awaited event called “The Storm.”
Trump’s hospitalization, QAnon believers suspected, was really a cover for mass arrest and executions they have long hoped for. One popular QAnon account quoted a three-year-old QAnon “clue” that read “POTUS must isolate himself to prevent negative optics,” insisting that QAnon had predicted Trump’s self-isolation ahead of the arrests.
Others fixated on hydroxychloroquine, the drug whose supposed efficacy against the virus Trump initially promoted. One popular QAnon account combed through Trump’s tweet about Hicks’s coronavirus diagnosis and circled the letters “HCQ” in various words, claiming that Trump had been trying to send out a message about hydroxychloroquine.
But Trump supporters’ praise for hydroxychloroquine hasn’t played out in the president’s actual treatment regimen. The therapies Trump was prescribed by his physician did not include hydroxychloroquine, according to a letter released Friday.
On The Donald.Win, a notorious pro-Trump internet forum, users cheered that Trump and his wife would quickly recover from the virus. One highly upvoted meme showed a picture of the president and first lady smiling. The photo was taken before the virus, but nevertheless declared that the couple would rebound quickly “after the China Virus.”
Another popular thread urged the site’s audience to pray for their “god emperor.”
Trump, who is both elderly and technically obese, has multiple risk factors for COVID-19 patients. Faced with those facts, Trump supporters decided to portray the president as fitter than he actually is. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh defended Trump’s weight on his show Friday, saying that Trump is “overweight, but he’s not that obese.”
Urologist and former Fox News regular David Samadi noted that the typical survival rate for someone Trump’s age would be 94.6 percent — but that Trump’s supposed fitness means his body is more like that of someone between 20 and 49 years old.
“I would put POTUS in the 20-49 category due to his strength and stamina,” Samadi tweeted. “Retweet if you agree.”
A few hours later, Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment.