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President Donald Trump on April 20 resorted to questioning whether a campaign rally he held in March had actually taken place after he was caught in a lie claiming that he hadn’t left the White House in months.
“I don’t know about rallies, I really don’t know about rallies,” Trump said at his press briefing when PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor mentioned his continued campaign events during the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
“I know one thing, I haven’t left the White House in months, except for a brief moment to give a wonderful ship, the [USNS] Comfort,” he said.
When Alcindor pointed out that he had held a campaign rally on March 3, Trump said: “I don’t know, did I hold a rally? I’m sorry, I hold a rally. Did I hold a rally?”
Trump held five campaign events in February and one in March.
The exchange occurred after Alcindor asked Trump to acknowledge whether he believed his downplaying of coronavirus in the early stages of the outbreak had resulted in people getting sick. She cited an interviewee who said they’d attended a funeral in mid-March and their family members fell ill because they were following cues from the president, who wasn’t taking it seriously, wearing a mask or telling people to stay home.
Trump responded to this question by saying: “A lot of people love Trump, right?” He then patted himself on the back for issuing travel restrictions on China on Jan. 31 and declared that “people should say I acted very early.”
Critics noted that the Jan. 31 move, which banned foreigners who had been in China in the last 14 days from entering the United States, made sense, but required a simultaneous effort to establish widespread testing, equip hospitals with proper medical supplies and limit the spread of the virus.
Yet in late February, Trump labeled the virus a “hoax” during a South Carolina rally. On March 9, when more than 500 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19, he compared coronavirus to the “common flu.”
The outbreak was declared a global pandemic two days later and Trump subsequently canceled his upcoming rallies “out of an abundance of caution.”