Don Lemon: Trump Is Gaslighting You On Coronavirus, Has Politicized The Pandemic Since The Beginning | Video | RealClearPolitics

Don Lemon: Trump Is Gaslighting You On Coronavirus, Has Politicized The Pandemic Since The Beginning


As coronavirus cases in the US continue to grow, CNN's Don Lemon argues that President Donald Trump has been politicizing the pandemic since the beginning.

DON LEMON, CNN: We have more breaking news to tell you about, the latest numbers on the coronavirus. As of this moment, there are 5,838 confirmed cases in this country. One hundred seven people have died. And just to give you an idea of how fast those numbers are growing, at the end of our show, this is on Friday night, there were 2,210 confirmed cases, 2,210.

Last night, 4,465 now that number has soared to 5,838, and the disruption to everyday life in America is spreading. The treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin warning Republican senators that the unemployment rate -- listen to this -- could hit 20 percent.

The New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo right here on CNN dismissing the possibility of a shelter in place order in his state.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): My job is to make sure that the state has a coordinated plan and it works everywhere. I don't think shelter in place really works for one locality.


LEMON: As at least 91,000 public and private schools are close or scheduled to close affecting more than 41 million students. And we are learning tonight that Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is among four Nets players who are tested positive for the virus.

In the face of all that, the president who has been playing down the coronavirus from the beginning says this today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've always known this is a -- this is a real -- this is a pandemic. I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.


LEMON: We're going to go through this. Because it's important that you should know. It is important that you hold the people who are in charge accountable. It is important to know how we got to this point. That is gaslighting pure and simple.

The President of the United States is gaslighting you, and you deserve to know. Claiming today that he has known all along that the coronavirus is a pandemic. This is way back in January, and I want you to listen to the president's own words in January. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.


LEMON: That was in January. Days later the CDC announced the first case of person to person transmission of the virus in this country. The World Health Organization said the outbreak was officially a public health emergency of international concern, but listen to what the president said in February last month.


TRUMP: We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.

You know, in April supposedly it dies with a hotter weather.

Looks like in April in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

In fact, we're very close to a vaccine. We have done an incredible job. We're going to continue. It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear.


LEMON: Right around the time, again, that was February. Right around the time the president said all of that, the first passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 700 people were eventually confirmed to have the virus, but this may be one of the most outrageous claims this president made about the virus.


TRUMP: One of my people came up to me and said Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia, that didn't work out too well. They couldn't do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation.


TRUMP: They tried anything. They tried it over and over, and this is their new hoax.


LEMON: The coronavirus is no hoax. Ask any of the thousands and thousands of people who are sick right now, and the gaslighting continues. This was two weeks ago, the president trying to down play the mortality rate from the virus.


TRUMP: I think the number -- personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent.


LEMON: Tweeting that more Americans die from the flu. There's the tweet up on your screen. Dr. Anthony Fauci, though, telling Sean Hannity the mortality rate is much higher than the president claimed and pointing out the fact, the fact, that it is 10 times more deadly than the flu.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The mortality for seasonal flu is 0.1. The mortality for this is about 2, 2.5 percent. It's probably lower than that. It's probably closer to one, but even if it's one, it's 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You got to make sure that people understand that.


LEMON: They downplayed it for a long time. Some in conservative media still are. For months, some just started taking it seriously just last week. Just last week. Others have been reporting on it since January.

Now, let's not forget the president's visit to the CDC, falsely claiming that anybody who wanted a test could get one. That is still not true. Falsely claiming all the tests were perfect and comparing them to his so-called perfect Ukraine phone call, which was definitely not perfect.


TRUMP: As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test, that's the important thing, and the tests are all perfect. Like the letter is perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.


LEMON: OK. That's a video tape in his own words. It was just a week and a half ago that he said he wasn't concerned at all about the coronavirus. That was at a dinner at Mar-a-Lago with the president of Brazil.

He really should have been concerned. We have since learned the press secretary for Brazil's president, who was there that night, has tested positive for the virus. That same night there was a birthday party at Mar-a-Lago for Don Jr.'s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a party attended by the Brazilian press secretary.

So, you've got to wonder whether that would have happened if the president actually thought the coronavirus was a pandemic as he claims. Listen to what he said to Republican members of Congress just a week ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Stay calm, it will go away.


LEMON: And let's not forget Sunday when he claimed we have tremendous control over the virus.


TRUMP: It's incredible, but it's something that we have tremendous control over.


LEMON: Like I said, this is gaslighting pure and simple. The President of the United States has been making demonstrably false statements from the beginning of all of this at a time when real leadership could have saved lives.

He caused a lot of people to think that this virus wasn't a serious threat. We now know it is. He suggested that it was less dangerous than the flu, not true. He claimed it was a hoax by Democrats, not true. He claimed it was well under control, not true.

He made fun of it at rallies. He went to CPAC, there was a person there who had it. Caused Republican lawmakers and others to have to self-quarantine. They made fun of it. They wore gas masks.

Causing all kinds of people to believe that it was a media hoax and not take it seriously. All of that caused a lot of people to think the virus wasn't a serious threat. Caused us to lose a lot of precious time while our government wasn't taking the threat seriously.

The sad fact is the president is the one who has been politicizing this. Don't get it twisted, and don't fall for that whole thing about everyone is politicizing this. Don't politicize this, Don. Stop politicizing this.

That is why I get so angry because the president is the one who's politicizing this, and then trying to do that whole okey-doke blaming the media and saying the media is politicizing it. No, we're just giving you the information, and he doesn't like it so he's politicizing it. That is dangerous.

The latest NPR/PBS/Marist poll show the partisan divide is growing. Seventy-six percent of Democrats say coronavirus is a real threat. Fifty percent of independents feel the same way, but only 40 percent of Republicans agree.

Come on, people. I said when we began just a few minutes ago there were at least 5,838 cases of the coronavirus in this country. Let me tell you what I do, I sit here before the show, and I ask my producers are the coronavirus numbers accurate before I say them? They have to keep updating me until the moment it comes out of my

mouth on this show. I can't even print them, and if they print them for me, I have to continue to update them. That is not a hoax. That is not a hoax. It has never been a hoax.

So, I want you to remember behind every -- behind every one of those numbers is a real person. One of our friends, one of our family, a loved one, a fellow American, and yes, you should be upset. You should be angry. You should be emotional about it. You should want the people who sit in these seats like me to hold leaders' feet to the fire and everyone who comes on a program like this to hold their feet to the fire, don't let them get away with it.

People are dying. No doublespeak. No hoax. Those -- it's not -- these are not numbers. These are people, Americans just like the rest of us, and the inconvenience that we're going through right now not being able to go out to dinner, schools close, sporting events canceled, houses of worship shut, having to work from home, all of that is changing everyday life in America.

The people who are unemployed right now who are not getting a paycheck, that is not a hoax people. That is real, go ask one of them. We have to remember why we're doing this, why we're making these sacrifices. We are doing this for the people who are sick, for the people who are trying to stay healthy, and for the people who are taking care of them.

The former President Barack Obama tweeting that tonight saying we owe a profound debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and everybody who will be on the front lines of this pandemic for a long while.

Obama spotlighting the story of a medical professor, Rachel Patzer (Ph) who tweeted that her husband, an emergency department physician has moved into their garage apartment so he can continue to treat patients while she cares for their two young children and a newborn.

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