Donald and Melania Trump only living former president and first lady to not join COVID-19 campaign

Every other president and first lady appeared in a PSA to promote COVID-19 vaccines

By Jon Skolnik
March 11, 2021 4:27PM (UTC)
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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive to the South Lawn of the White House (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Despite both secretly receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations last month, former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump were curiously absent from a new public service campaign released on Thursday featuring every living former president and first lady. 

In a commercial called "It's Up to You," every living president and first lady encourages the American public to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.

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Featured in the video are Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, all underscoring the immense importance of getting vaccinated as the current administration steers the country out of the pandemic. 

"We urge you to get vaccinated when it's available to you," Obama says in one of the two ad spots, while Bush tells Americans to "roll up your sleeve and do your part."

"This is our shot," says Bill Clinton, an admittedly lackluster pun. "They could save your life."

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"I'm getting vaccinated because we want this pandemic to end as soon as possible," Mr. Carter added, though he does not appear in the video. 

The ad campaign was put together by the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative as part of their Covid-19 Vaccine Education Initiative and began production back in December. Absent from the ad, however, was former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump. Although the Trumps reportedly received a COVID-19 vaccine in January, they did not make their vaccinations public until weeks after leaving the White House. 

The PSA is not the first time the Trumps have forgone traditional gestures of bipartisanship post-presidency. 

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Back in January, as a part of President Joe Biden's inaugural proceedings, Obama, Bush, and Clinton released a video welcoming Biden to the Oval Office and encouraging bi-partisanship. The three men also attended Biden's inauguration ceremony. Donald and Melania Trump, however, did not partake in either event.

Biden has called Trump's vaccine rollout –– which failed to deliver on its goal of administering 20 million vaccinations by 2021 –– a "dismal failure." Under President Biden, the pace of vaccinations has increased significantly, and the administration appears to be on track to meet his 100-day goal. Although distribution has been rolling out for months now, reticence and uncertainty about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine still linger within the American public. Surveys show that 60 percent of the American public is willing to get the vaccine, a number that President Biden expects to rise as he ramps up his goal to get 100 million American vaccinated in the first 100 days of his term. 

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Days before Biden took office, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the new administration would be "phasing in a new structure" for Operation Warp Speed, "which will have a different name than OWS. Many of the public servants will be essential to our response, but urgent need to address failures of the Trump team approach to vaccine distribution."

On this very day last year, the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 crisis a global pandemic, marking today its formal one-year anniversary. According to Johns Hopkins University, over 525,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19. 


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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Ad Campaign Barack Obama Biden Bush Carter Clinton Donald Trump Melania Trump Psa Vaccine Rollout