A Useless Semantic Fight and Neutering Brian Kemp: Trump’s Latest Press Conference Was a Real Headscratcher

President Donald J. Trump (L) and CDC Director Robert Redfield (R) are joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks on the COVID-19 pandemic in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.Michael Reynolds/ZUMA

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

On Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump was incensed—not because of the ongoing pandemic, or, as Chris Hayes pointed out, the fact that 2,100 Americans died today, but because he felt Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was “misquoted,” to use Trump’s words. In a Washington Post article published yesterday, Redfield warned the second wave of COVID-19 could be worse than the current wave due to it possibly coinciding with flu season. 

Sorry, to be exact, Redfield said it could be “more difficult” than the current wave, not “worse.” See the difference? Not really? Me either! But that’s the crux of the issue here: To Trump, “more difficult” does not mean anything close to “worse,” as the original Post headline paraphrased.

To be clear, Redfield did not appear to take issue with the article when it came out; he tweeted it yesterday evening, pre-Trump-tantrum.

But Trump’s plan to get Redfield to denounce the media and pour cold, cold water on the idea that there would be another severe wave of coronavirus infections pretty much backfired; Redfield explicitly admitted that he was not in fact misquoted:

The Washington Post, for its part, does seem to have changed the offending headline from “CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be worse” to “CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating,” so that’s helpful. Now aren’t we glad we took the time to clear that up? 

The exchange, which left me feeling more than a little dead inside, also inspired an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to The Dixie Chicks, whose new single “Gaslighter” was the tune I chose to blast just before this whole mess started. These little gatherings sometimes truly make me question my own sanity: I slacked my editor midway through Trump’s insistence that the fake news media had screwed it up yet again, and asked, “Am I stupid, what is the problem here?” She assured me that I am not stupid, and hearing Natalie Maines belt, “gasliiiiiiighter, you liiiiiar” in my head while the “briefing” continued was oddly reassuring. I highly recommend it as a White House presser amuse-bouche.

But! I’d be lucky if I could stop there. Adding insult to injury tonight, after the failed Redfield-Was-Misquoted-Let’s-Blame-the-Media Mission, the president said he disagreed with one of his loyal followers, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who this week announced he’d start to reopen the state shortly. Remember, this is just days after Trump’s tweets to “LIBERATE!!!” states from stay-at-home orders.

If you need me, I’ll just be over here. 

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate