Trump, who told Obama to resign after one Ebola death, calls 160,000 COVID-19 deaths "fantastic job"

"I think it's been amazing what we've been able to do," Trump said of his response to the coronavirus pandemic

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published August 11, 2020 5:13PM (EDT)

Barack Obama and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Barack Obama and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Monday claimed that he would not have called on former President Barack Obama to resign over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 160,000 people in the U.S. so far. But Trump previously demanded his predecessor's resignation for far less

Trump insisted that he would not have called on Obama to step down when a reporter questioned what his response would have been if "160,000 people had died on President Obama's watch."

Given that Trump repeatedly harangued Obama over his Ebola response, the remark drew skepticism. Trump demanded that Obama "apologize to the American people & resign" in the fall of 2014 for allowing an individual who tested positive for Ebola to enter the country. 

"If Obama resigns from office NOW, thereby doing a great service to the country-- I will give him free lifetime golf," Trump tweeted weeks later. (Trump falsely claimed that he had golfed less than Obama during his 276th golf course outing as president last month.)

The West Africa Ebola epidemic, which lasted from 2014 to 2016, was the largest outbreak of the virus in history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only two individuals, who contracted Ebola in Africa, died of the virus in the U.S.

Trump defended his response to the new coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. faces the worst outbreak in the world.

"I think it's been amazing what we've been able to do," Trump added on Monday. "If we didn't close up our country, we would have had 1.5 or 2 million people already dead. We've called it right. Now, we don't have to close it. We understand the disease."

Trump's claim that 2 million people would have died was based on early projections formed from an "unlikely" scenario with no mitigation factors. The president, of course, did not "close up our country." Instead, he let states make their own decisions about restrictions. 

"Nobody understood it, because nobody has ever seen anything like this," Trump continued at Monday's news briefing. "The closest thing is in 1917, they say. Right? The great — the great pandemic certainly was a terrible thing, where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million people, probably ended the Second World War. All the soldiers were sick."

This is false on more than one count. The so-called Spanish Flu pandemic, which actually began in 1918, most certainly did not end World War II, which began in 1939. It did not even end World War I.

"Our people have done a fantastic job — our consultants and our doctors," Trump further said. "They've done a — really, an extraordinary job. They'll never be given the credit — and I'm not talking about me. The people that have worked on this so hard will never be given the credit."

Despite Trump's attempts to downplay the devastation the pandemic has wrought in the U.S. — which is singular among wealthy nations — his "doctors" have increasingly sounded the alarm over the current situation.

"What we are seeing today is different from March and April," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told CNN earlier this month. "It is extraordinarily widespread."

The comment drew a public rebuke from Trump, who accused Birx of trying to hurt his administration. Additionally, he called her remarks "pathetic."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country who has had to hire security for his family amid numerous public attacks from the Trump administration, agreed during a recent interview that the country's outbreak was the "worst" in the world.

"Quantitatively, if you look at it, it is. I mean, the numbers don't lie," Fauci said. "I mean, when you look at the number of infections and the number of deaths, it really is quite concerning."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Anthony Fauci Barack Obama Coronavirus Covid-19 Deborah Birx Donald Trump Politics Republicans