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Trump finally concedes coronavirus fight amid sinking polls, GOP anger



  • President Donald Trump struck a new, sober tone at his first coronavirus briefing in months on Tuesday.
  • At the press conference, he conceded that the pandemic in the US will “get worse before it gets better.”
  • The change of tone was likely prompted by tanking poll ratings and increasing concern from GOP governors and members of Congress about an absence of leadership from the White House. 
  • And critics are already questioning the sincerity of the president’s newfound seriousness.
  • He has continued to flout public-health advice and, despite negative data, boast of the US’ success in containing the virus. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump’s first White House briefing on the coronavirus crisis for months was marked by a serious new change of tone. 

After weeks of downplaying the importance of rising infection rates, Trump on Tuesday conceded that the pandemic in the US will “get worse before it gets better.”

“Something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Having consistently refused to wear a mask in public and offering at best equivocal support for its use, Trump’s Tuesday remarks echoed those of top public health officials on the urgency of the measure. 

“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask,” he said.

“Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect and we need everything we can get.”

On Monday, he also tweeted a photo of himself wearing a mask, calling it “Patriotic.”

Trump downplays rising infections to focus on economy

For weeks a group of White House advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, have been urging Trump not to focus on the disease, but on talking up the economy instead, according to Politico.

They believe that approach will give him a better chance of reelection in November, Politico said.

But the virus is not abating, as Trump has predicted, and continues to sweep through the US after several states — at Trump’s urging — lifted lockdown measures while infection rates remained high. 

And that is having a devastating impact on his reelection prospects. 

A slew of both national and swing state polls show Trump losing to Democratic candidate Joe Biden, sometimes by double-digit margins.

Aides to the president reportedly believe that Trump’s failings on the virus are among the factors underlying the slump. Biden’s message on the coronavirus has contrasted sharply with Trump’s, with the former vice president early to adopt mask wearing in public, and hammering Trump on his failure to contain the virus. 

Increasing concern within the president’s own party about a lack of leadership in the White House may also be another factor behind Trump’s change of tone Wednesday.

Most of the recent surges in infections have come in Republican-leaning states in the South and West, including Texas and Ohio. As ICU wards in some cities are reaching capacity, concern is reportedly growing among top Republicans. 

According to The New York Times, a group of Republican governors have been holding secret conference calls for weeks, griping about the president and swapping tips on how to contain the virus amid the leadership vacuum.

Even GOP lawmakers steadfastly loyal to the president, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have broken with him to back mask wearing and other measures to control the disease. 

Critics question sincerity of Trump’s change of heart 

But has the president had a genuine change of heart, or was the shift in tone born of mere political calculation?

Critics are already pointing to the fact that Trump was pictured on Monday night — hours after tweeting that mask wearing was “patriotic” — without a mask at fundraiser event in Washington, DC, where social distancing was also not observed.

On Twitter on Tuesday, Trump also boasted of the US’ success in battling the virus, despite figures showing the US is the nation worst affected by the pandemic.


The next few weeks will likely determine whether Trump continues to take the virus seriously, or reverts to the partisan attacks and misinformation that prompted the cancellation of the briefings in April. 

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