The shocking announcement that President Donald Trump has contracted the coronavirus was promptly followed by well-wishes from the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday sent President Trump a telegram, wishing a speedy recovery to the U.S. president and the first lady. According to a Kremlin readout of the telegram, Putin wrote, “I am sure that your inherent vitality, good spirits and optimism will help you cope with the dangerous virus.”
Overshadowed by the news of Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 was the fact that U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva. According to Russian state media outlet Vesti, O’Brien allegedly went along with Putin’s much-ridiculed proposal that the United States and Russia enter into a pact of mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. If such an agreement was in fact entertained, Moscow will undoubtedly interpret it to encompass Russia’s relations with its neighboring countries, including but not limited to the post-Soviet space, as well as the potential relief from the U.S. sanctions for Russia’s election interference, and the Kremlin being allowed to escape any consequences for the attempted poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
Meanwhile, with respect to Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, initial reactions in the Russian state media encompassed a full spectrum of emotions—ranging from sympathy to schadenfreude. Discussing Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Evgeny Popov, the host of Russian state media news talk show 60 Minutes, said, “Our candidate got sick.” His co-host Olga Skabeeva reminded the viewers that Trump is in a high-risk group, due to being elderly and overweight. Referring to former Vice President Joe Biden, Popov added, “The other one may get sick too.”
The hosts and panelists of 60 Minutes briefly discussed the possibility that Trump faked the coronavirus results in order to get out of additional debates with Biden, having resoundingly failed in the first round. They dismissed that conspiracy theory out of hand, believing that Americans traditionally don’t vote for sick candidates and illness would be much worse for Trump than being defeated in another debate.
As a case-in-point, 60 Minutes proceeded to showcase a compilation of various instances when Trump mocked and hounded Hillary Clinton, then a Democratic candidate for president, for her real and perceived ailments. In 2016, the Russian state media was very actively promoting various claims of medical issues allegedly plaguing Clinton. Hosts and panelists of the program concurred that those claims successfully transformed Clinton into a “lame duck” as a presidential candidate.
The participants of 60 Minutes didn’t limit themselves to well-wishes and kindest regards. Deputy of the State Duma Aleksey Zhuravlyov smugly noted, “I’m glad that COVID got involved in the presidential race and it will most likely win. Not Joe Biden or Trump, but COVID will win.” Popov pondered out loud, “So we’ve been interfering and interfering, but all of that was for naught?”
The program’s hosts, Popov and Skabeeva, baselessly claimed that the Democrats are “celebrating” Trump’s diagnosis, but state media reporter Denis Davydov in the U.S.—who spent the night peering at the windows of the White House—pointed out that Trump’s Twitter mentions are filled with messages of support. “Those are just the Russian bots,” retorted Popov.
Moskovsky Komsomolets, a popular privately-owned Moscow daily, wrote about Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis: “What happened is what should have happened.” The newspaper articulated that the U.S. president’s infection was directly related to his reluctance to wear a mask, in order to protect his carefully cultivated image of a “tough guy.” Moskovsky Komsomolets published a photo gallery, featuring the president of the United States attending various events and rallies, habitually without a mask.
The newspaper argued that by getting infected with the coronavirus, U.S. president “fundamentally screwed up his campaign during the hottest time for meetings with voters, rallies and debates.”
In other articles, Moskovsky Komsomolets concluded that Trump’s diagnosis could result in “the Democrats winning without elections” and coldly surmised that the president of the United States “brought it upon himself,” publishing a compilation of Trump’s “stupid quotes” about the coronavirus.
Trump’s low-energy performance during his recent fundraiser in Bedminster, N.J., didn’t go unnoticed. Russian state media outlet Vesti came up with a caustic headline: “Sleepy Joe Biden wished Sleepy Trump a speedy recovery.”
Russian state media outlet RT published a cartoon image of U.S. President Donald J. Trump in a coffin, after the image made the rounds on the internet. Pondering about the worst case scenario, 60 Minutes described the unfolding situation in the United States as “the perfect storm.” Popov speculated that President Trump had infected the U.S. government in its entirety and cheerfully expressed Russia’s readiness to take control over America’s nuclear button.