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Trump says coronavirus ‘worse than Pearl Harbor,’ and blames China

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  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday said coronavirus has been worse than Pearl Harbor and 9/11. 
  • “This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There’s never been an attack like this,” Trump said.
  • Trump blamed China, where COVID-19 originated. “It should’ve never happened. It could’ve been stopped at the source. It could’ve been stopped in China,” he said. 
  • The president has ramped up criticism of China as the coronavirus outbreak has escalated in the US, deflecting from his own failures in responding to the pandemic. 
  • Trump consistently downplayed the threat of coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, while praising China and ignoring warnings from top US officials of an impending pandemic. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump spent weeks downplaying the threat of the novel coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, telling Americans everything was “under control” and that the virus would “disappear” with warmer weather.  

The president simultaneously ignored a slew of urgent warnings from officials across the federal government about an impending pandemic, leaving the country unprepared for a public health crisis that’s killed tens of thousands of Americans and left 30 million unemployed over period of roughly two months. 

Trump now says the coronavirus pandemic has been worse than Pearl Harbor and 9/11, blaming China for what he described as an “attack” that “should’ve never happened.”

“This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There’s never been an attack like this,” Trump said at the White House on Wednesday. “And it should’ve never happened. It could’ve been stopped at the source. It could’ve been stopped in China. It should’ve been stopped right at the source, and it wasn’t.”

 

Trump has gone from praising China to blaming it for the scale of the outbreak in the US

The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, first emerged in Wuhan, China. It wasn’t identified as a new virus until January, and the World Health Organization did not declare it a pandemic until March. 

Beijing is facing global backlash over its approach to the novel coronavirus, particularly in relation to transparency, so Trump is not alone in terms of his criticism of the Chinese government. 

Though Trump is heavily critical of China now, effectively blaming it for the scale of the outbreak in the US, he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of coronavirus in January, across February, and into March. 

 

Critics of the president have said that Trump’s change in tone toward China is part of an effort to deflect from his own failures, and the fact the US is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump’s rhetoric on coronavirus has shifted drastically as the scale of the crisis has escalated in the US

“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,” Trump said on January 22.

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” Trump said on February 27. 

“We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” Trump said on March 10.

In a matter of weeks, Trump has gone from telling Americans to “stay calm” about coronavirus, to essentially acknowledging that the death toll has been far higher than two of the most consequential attacks in US history. 

Over 2,400 Americans were killed when the Japanese Empire attacked US forces at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Nearly 3,000 were killed in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, including 2,753 at the World Trade Center in New York City. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were over 1.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, and nearly 72,000 reported fatalities. 

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the US is still in the “acceleration phase of the pandemic,” Trump has been pushing for the US to reopen and ease coronavirus restricts in order to jumpstart the economy.  

When asked if Americans will have to accept that there will be more death from reopening, Trump on Wednesday said, “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.”

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