Donald Trump seems to have misplaced an entire six weeks recently: he is yet to account for what he did in the first six weeks after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the US.
Yesterday, the CBS reporter Paula Reid was determined to ask him about it at a White House press conference. “How do you close down the greatest economy in the history of the world when, on January 17, you have no cases [of Covid-19 in the US] and no deaths?” he replied. “On January 21, you have one case and no deaths. Think of that, we’re supposed to close down the country?”
In the exchange, the president highlights his decision to close US borders to China, and suggests that Democrats, in particular Joe Biden, accused him of xenophobia at the time.
But Reid was not convinced. “The argument is that you bought yourself some time. But what did you do with that time? You didn’t use it to prepare hospitals, you didn’t use it to ramp up testing. Right now, nearly 20 million are unemployed, tens of thousands of Americans are dead,” says Reid.
In the ensuing debacle, Trump talks over her, raising his voice and calling Reid disgraceful – a pattern he seems to follow when taking to female journalists, and female journalists of color particularly. Earlier this month, the PBS journalist Yamiche Alcindor had a similar interaction with Trump, during which he told her to “be nice”. Alcindor stood her ground and held her line of questioning.
Trump continuously looks down during Reid’s questioning, but if it’s a script he is consulting, it doesn’t seem very versatile. “What do you do when you have no cases in the whole United States –” he begins, before Reid interjects: “You had cases in February.”
Reid does what all journalists who are facing Donald Trump should do: she demands an answer, she holds him to account, and she remains steadfast and unfazed while he ignores her questions and insults her instead.
“Look, look, you know you’re a fake. You know that, your whole network, the way that you cover it is fake,” responds Trump. He goes on to ask about Joe Biden apologizing for closing the borders.
“There are thousands of Americans dead right now, we don’t care about why Joe Biden didn’t apologize to you,” responds Reid.
Trump continues to give himself credit for closing borders in January. But still, nobody knows what happened in February.