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President Donald Trump walks from the podium as a White House produced video plays during a briefing about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) President Donald Trump walks from the podium as a White House produced video plays during a briefing about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump walks from the podium as a White House produced video plays during a briefing about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg April 14, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Trump played a video summary that cherry-picked highlights of his coronavirus track record.

  • The video’s sole entry for February underscored the lack of action during a critical period.

  • The video took quotes out of context and excluded Trump’s comments during the time when he downplayed the crisis.

President Donald Trump opened the April 13 daily coronavirus task force briefing with a video that more had to do with polishing Trump’s image than delivering new developments in the fight against COVID-19.

"The media minimized the risk from the start," were the video’s opening words

And after showing experts playing down the threat, the video pivoted with "Trump took decisive action." From that point, it offered a series of one success after another.

From beginning to end, the video was a mixture of cherry-picked clips, deceptive editing and missing context.

Here’s what you missed.

Minimized the risk? News organizations sounded the alarm

The video offered snippets from news shows of experts saying the virus hadn’t hit the United States too hard, and one person went so far as to say that it wasn’t likely to cause much disruption. Those comments came between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8.

That ignores a lot of coverage.

On Jan. 16, CNN reported that "fears are mounting across Asia over the cross-border spread of a new coronavirus identified in China that has killed one patient and sickened dozens, as health authorities race to identify the source of the pathogen.

A headline in the New York Times Jan. 18 read "Deadly Mystery Virus Reported in 2 New Chinese Cities and South Korea."

NBC said Jan. 20, "Coronavirus cases surge in China as virus spreads."

Meanwhile, as PolitiFact’s timeline notes, when asked Jan. 22 if there were worries about a pandemic, Trump said "No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s — going to be just fine."

The liberal media monitoring group Media Matters noted that the sequence of experts in the Trump video largely mirrors those used by Fox News host Sean Hannity in his March 26 program.

Gaps in the video’s coronavirus timeline

The video included a timeline that started in early January and picked up in mid March. It highlighted Trump’s Jan. 30 travel restriction for China, and his March 13 declaration of a national emergency.

But there was only one highlight for February: "Feb. 6 CDC ships first testing kits." 

To mark that event is to overlook that those test kits proved to be a failure. Some of the chemicals in them were tainted, and states had to send their samples to be tested back to the CDC. Trump later said "we inherited a broken test," but that was impossible because until the virus came into being, there could be no test. Point being, there was nothing to inherit.

The lack of widespread testing hamstrung the nation’s response to COVID-19.

The lack of any other entries for February underscores the lack of action and brushes past Trump’s words during that month. On Feb. 14, he said, "We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape."

On Feb. 24, Trump tweeted, "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA."

RELATED: Timeline: How Donald Trump responded to the coronavirus pandemic

Selective quoting of the New York Times

One full segment is built around New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman talking about Trump’s travel restrictions on China.

In the video, there’s audio of Haberman saying, "At the end of the day, it was probably effective, because it did actually take a pretty aggressive measure against the spread of the virus."

But in the actual interview on The Daily podcast, Haberman immediately went on to say, "The problem is, it was one of the last things that he did for several weeks."

Selective praise from governors

The video’s final section focuses on governors, both Democratic and Republican, thanking Trump and describing how much he’s done for their states. 

In the video, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo thanks Trump, saying "His team is on it. They’ve been responsive. Late at night, early in the morning."

But when Trump floated the idea of a travel quarantine around New York City, Cuomo said it would amount to a "federal declaration of war on states."  

The video shows Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan praising Trump for "doing a really good job of communicating with all the governors." It leaves out that Hogan disputed Trump’s assertion that states have enough testing kits.

"That’s just not true," Hogan told NPR

And Hogan also joined Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an op-ed calling on Washington to force private companies to produce essential products such as protective gear and coordinate purchasing to keep prices down. 

Whitmer and Trump had their own dust up. When she complained about tests and supplies, Trump referred to her as "Gretchen Half Whitmer" on Twitter.

Whitmer tweeted,"I've asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it."

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