'Callous': Trump falsely says COVID-19 death toll not so bad 'if you take blue states out'

'Callous': Trump falsely says COVID-19 death toll not so bad 'if you take blue states out'
President Donald J. Trump waves Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, at Joint Base Andrews, Md., as he boards Air Force One to begin his trip to Florida. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

In yet another attempt to evade responsibility for the nation's disastrous coronavirus response as the U.S. death toll approaches 200,000, President Donald Trump late Wednesday said the fact that millions of Americans haven't died of Covid-19 is a sign of success and declared, "If you take the blue states out, we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at."


Both morally obscene and factually inaccurate, the president's comment drew immediate backlash from lawmakers and other observers, one of whom said Trump's remark will "be remembered as one of the most callous sentiments ever uttered by an American president.... if it's remembered at all."

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) had a similar reaction, tweeting, "This is quite simply one of the most appalling and inhuman statements ever uttered by an American president."

Trump has repeatedly sought to blame Democratic governors for his administration's failures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which has now infected more than 6.6 million people in the U.S. and killed at least 196,600. But the president's statement during a press briefing Wednesday marked what critics described as a grotesque escalation in rhetoric, explicitly devaluing the lives of people living in blue states ravaged by the virus.

"Trump thinks of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans like a poll number or a stock market price," said Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "He cares only about how it makes him look, especially to his supporters."

Pointing to a graphic purporting to show that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would likely be in the 1.5 to 2.2 million range had the nation done nothing in response to the pandemic, Trump told reporters, "We're below that substantially, and we'll see what comes out."

"If the not-so-good job was done, you'd be between 1.5 million—I remember these numbers so well—and 2.2 million. That's quite a difference," the president said.

"So we're down in this territory," Trump continued, pointing to the 100,000 to 240,000 projected death toll displayed on the chart. "And that's despite the fact that the blue states had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out, we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at. We're really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue-state-managed."

As the Washington Post's Philip Bump detailed late Wednesday, Trump's claim that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would be among the lowest in the world if blue-state deaths were subtracted from the total is completely false.

"It is true that the early surge in deaths was heavily weighted toward states that had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016," Bump wrote. "New York and New Jersey in particular recorded hundreds of deaths a day in April, quickly contributing to the country's total number of fatalities."

"Over time, though, the percentage of total deaths that have occurred in blue states has dropped," Bump continued. "The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states—meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones. In other words, more than 90,000 deaths have occurred in red states. If that were the country's total, we would have seen the second-most number of deaths globally, trailing only Brazil."

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