The first night of the Republican convention was always destined to be, in part, an attempt to whitewash much of the administration’s record on the COVID-19 pandemic. And the first hour showed just how committed the GOP is to the task—offering up a mix of glossy videos and disinformation packaged in a variety of formats.
Several video montages praised the president for taking decisive action, presenting the deaths of more than 175,000 Americans as an achievement worth celebrating, if only because it could have been much worse.
The content was not tethered to reality. It ignored the happy talk that the president has spouted about the virus going away. And it touted the administration’s handling of protective equipment for health-care workers when, in fact, states had warned for months at its slow arrival. It asserted that a ban on traveling to and from China saved millions of lives when scientists have said that the strand that hit the United States came from Europe.
But the most remarkable moment came after the videos had ended, when the programming cut to a conversation Trump had with a group of essential workers about their lives during the pandemic. The format was conversational, and presented Trump in a more affable light than virtually anything he has done in months. But the content was also rife with problematic and misleading messaging.
The people were not social distancing. Nor were they wearing masks. That may be because they were at the White House, where attendees must be tested before meeting with the president. And yet, when the conversation started, Trump claimed that a woman who had contracted COVID-19 in March was now perfectly safe. “We don’t have to be afraid of you at all,” he joked, despite no conclusive scientific evidence about how COVID survivors can transmit the virus.
And he pushed hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma—two therapies whose efficacies range between marginal and dubious. Trump then offered that he took zinc and the antibiotic azithromycin as a preventative measure, neither of which are confirmed as helpful in warding off the virus.