President Donald Trump doesn’t have the coronavirus. While he had been at a gathering with people who had COVID-19, he was tested Saturday and came back negative. There’s nothing there.
This is a good thing. We should be thankful and move on.
We won’t, because the president’s decision to delay testing has become a part of one of the most dispiriting parts of the coronavirus pandemic: the tendency of the media to treat it as if it were an ongoing television drama with a plotline.
The backstory can’t come to an end, so most media outlets have gone with the “Why didn’t he get tested earlier?” angle.
Not ABC News, though. I have to give it some credit for going, instead, with, “Yeah, he might have tested negative, but did he really?”
As Newsbusters noticed, Sunday’s “Good Morning America” contained a whole lot of rank speculation about facts that have already been established.
“Whether or not the president is sick, the threat of the spread is still there. And the White House is notably upping its precautions,” ABC News’ Trevor Ault said at the top of the report.
He did make it clear that the president had tested negative — although he tut-tutted the fact that Trump “joked about his temperature” when he talked to the media.
“This morning, the relentless spread of the novel coronavirus appears to have, so far, stopped shy of the Oval Office. According to his personal doctor, President Trump’s COVID-19 test is negative, the result released hours after the President spoke Saturday in the briefing room. Where he joked about his temperature,” Ault said.
And then came a segment in which ABC News asked: Sure, the president isn’t sick, but is he really not sick?
“Let’s start with the COVID-19 test that the president took,” anchor Dan Harris said to chief ABC medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.
“It’s negative. Is he out of the woods?”
That would be bad enough if it weren’t to the fact that Ashton was somewhat equivocal about Trump’s viral status.
“Well, here’s the difficult thing about the testing, right now we don’t totally know how this virus behaves in terms of the asymptomatic period, in terms of can people develop symptoms after a certain time,” she said.
“What we do know, just published in the last week, is that the average incubation is 5.2 days and by 11 days, 97 percent of people who convert to positive have done so by day 11,” Ashton continued.
“We also know that people can have coronavirus and not show symptoms, and we know that some percentage can not have a fever. So, when to test, how often to test, is still being, you know, worked out.”
Here, then, is a handy summary in case you missed the “Maybe Trump Has Coronavirus” plotline:
• Media all week: “Trump needs to get tested. Why isn’t he getting tested? It’s profoundly irresponsible.”
• Trump on Saturday: Gets tested. It comes back negative.
• ABC News doctor on Sunday: “So, when to test, how often to test, is still being, you know, worked out.”
ABC News’ reaction to Trump testing negative wasn’t the worst out there, but it was competing for the award with the hyperpartisan progressive rag Mother Jones, which came up with this one: “If Trump Got the Coronavirus, How Would We Know?”
Because, you know, the White House is a den of disinformation.
Keep in mind on ABC News, however, this sort of thing was likely packaged in-between segments about what everyone’s doing now that we’re social distancing and, for the 42nd time, an explanation of what “flattening the curve” means.
At Mother Jones, that headline was right at home amid stuff like “O’Hare Airport Was Total Chaos on Saturday. But the White House Is More Upset About a Tweet,” “ICE Is Ignoring a Simple Way to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus: Let People Out of Detention” and “The Coronavirus Crisis Is Bernie Sanders’ Message in a Nutshell.”
Despite the fact the last one doesn’t even make sense, you get the idea, I gather.
I’m not going to opine on whether Donald Trump should have been tested sooner or what kind of advice he was getting on that end, mostly because there are already plenty of opinions out there and none of them comes from people who know the particulars.
However, unless you actually believe that Trump’s doctors are involved in one of the most massive political frauds ever perpetrated and a man whose age puts him in the at-risk category has shown no coronavirus symptoms and yet tested positive, that’s not a matter of opinion.
While that kind of frivolity might be acceptable from an errant Twitter user or something like that, it isn’t for a major network’s news division.
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