Republican group attacks president for golfing during coronavirus outbreak: "Trump just didn't care"

A group co-founded by Kellyanne Conway's husband takes on Trump's claim that impeachment bungled his virus response

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published April 10, 2020 4:39PM (EDT)

Donald Trump golfing (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Donald Trump golfing (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

A new ad from a group of anti-Trump Republicans claims that the president prioritized his golfing hobby over his duty to protect the American public from the coronavirus pandemic.

After pointing out that the new coronavirus has so far killed three times as many Americans as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the narrator of the ad challenges President Donald Trump's claim that he was unable to adequately respond to the impending threat in January — when one of his own senior advisers, Peter Navarro, first sounded the alarm — because he was distracted by fighting impeachment.

"Where was Trump? He wasn't distracted," the narrator says of Trump. "He had plenty to do, like campaign rallies and golfing."

The ad continues to describe events which should have raised red flags, including devastating outbreaks overseas in Europe. 

"Trump played more golf and packed thousands of people together. Sounds safe," the narrator says, before concluding that "Trump just didn't care, and he still doesn't. He was never distracted, and Americans have been paying attention."

The ad was produced by The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans co-founded by George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. The conservative attorney has previously criticized leading Republicans for defending Trump's handling of the pandemic, pointing out in The Washington Post last month that "the impeachment trial ended on Feb. 5." 

"In reality, it was over before it even started, thanks in large part to McConnell," he wrote in March. "The only drama was about whether there'd be any witnesses — and that ended on Jan. 31, when the Senate voted not to hear testimony. That left plenty of time to deal with the virus."

He continued, "Impeachment didn't consume the government, and Trump managed to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate for rounds of golf on at least four occasions in January and February, after the coronavirus pandemic had already reached the U.S."

Trump was impeached in December for allegedly abusing his presidential power and obstructing Congress after he withheld $391 million in military aid from Ukraine while pressuring the country to investigate his political rivals. The Senate acquitted Trump in a mostly party-line vote: All Republicans voted to acquit and all Democrats voted to convict on obstruction of Congress, while Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah broke from his party and joined Democrats in voting to convict on abuse of power.

In addition to downplaying the crisis in January, February and March, Trump disbanded a National Security Council pandemic panel praised by experts; advocated for major budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control; and failed to provide Americans with accurate scientific information about the pandemic.

"He should have been warning us it was coming," Dr. William Haseltine, a biologist renowned for his work in confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, for fighting anthrax and for advancing our knowledge of the human genome, told Salon. "He should have been preparing by stockpiling all the necessary equipment. But even today we're not doing what we should do. Let me put it that way. What we should be doing is contact tracing [identifying people who may have come in contact with infected patients] and having mandatory quarantines for everybody who's been exposed. And quarantining not at home, but in hotel rooms, single occupancy hotel rooms."

You can watch the full ad below via YouTube:

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Clip Coronavirus Covid-19 Donald Trump George Conway Impeachment Politics The Lincoln Project