Some seven months into a pandemic that has killed more than 209,000 Americans, the nation is now facing a grave governing crisis with its commander in chief hospitalized — his condition hinging on his progress over the coming days — as the White House events of the past week serve as a textbook example of how not to handle a deadly virus.
Late Saturday night, the public learned new details about why President Donald Trump was airlifted to the hospital Friday, when chief of staff Mark Meadows said during an interview with Fox News that Trump had a fever on Friday morning and his oxygen level had “dropped rapidly.” Meadows added that Trump has made “unbelievable improvements from yesterday morning.”
A memo from Trump’s physician earlier Saturday night said that Trump had “made substantial progress” since his diagnosis but “is not yet out of the woods.”
Speaking from a White House that already has a huge credibility problem with the public, Meadows’ statement capped a 24-hour period that served as a master class in opacity and contradiction that raised major questions about the President’s health — and renewed questions about this administration’s ability to tell the truth.
Trump has been watching and critiquing coverage of his hospitalization from the presidential suite at Walter Reed and has been agitated at what he claims are exaggerated descriptions of his condition, people familiar with the matter said.
Those people told CNN that Trump seemed particularly upset when he saw a quote saying he was displaying “concerning” symptoms on Friday attributed to a person familiar with his health but later assigned by the New York Times and Associated Press to Meadows.
The comment about the President’s vitals hinted that his condition was more worrisome than his doctors let on. But the President’s aversion to appearing weak and sick is now what is driving the effort to project resolve, including a video he tweeted from Walter Reed on Saturday, the photos released by the White House of him working and the multiple accounts of phone calls where he sounded strong by his allies and family members.
For much of this year, Trump has spun an alternate reality about the dangers of coronavirus — disputing science and the efficacy of masks, downplaying the risks to the American people, and making false statements about how 99% of coronavirus cases in America are “totally harmless” or that the virus “affects virtually nobody.”
He encouraged his aides and advisers to live in that dangerous fantasy land, pushing his luck to the limits as late as this past week when he again recklessly gathered thousands of unmasked Americans at his political