Trump retweet spree blames Cuomo for coronavirus death rate as Michelle Obama’s DNC speech is praised

President was infuriated by New York governor's account of coronavirus outbreak, but seemingly ignored former first lady's more direct attack on him

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 18 August 2020 10:36
Andrew Cuomo and Michelle Obama condemn the Trump administration

As the Democrats began their virtual convention with addresses from some of their top leaders, Donald Trump turned his ire on New York governor Andrew Cuomo – ignoring the night’s climactic speech by Michelle Obama, who criticised him much more personally.

Ms Obama, who has become one of the party’s most beloved national figures, delivered a poised but blistering speech in which she blamed the president for the country’s many problems, calling him unfit for the job and incapable of doing it.

To make this point, she invoked her own famous line from the 2016 convention, “when they go low, we go high”, making clear that it is not simply a call to let adversaries off lightly.

“Going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold, hard truth,” she said.

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Like her speech four years ago, Ms Obama’s address has been rapturously received among much of the Democratic base. Yet even as the night ended with the former first lady’s uncompromising attack, Mr Trump chose to focus his tweets squarely on New York governor Andrew Cuomo – one of the president’s most consistent and most visible critics during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike Ms Obama, the governor attacked Mr Trump mostly implicitly, focusing both on the divided atmosphere in the US and the federal government’s response to the pandemic.

“We saw the failure of a government that tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicise it,” he said, also addressing the convention.

“The failed federal government that watched New York get ambushed by their negligence and then watch New York suffer but all through it learned absolutely nothing. So today, six months after it began, the nation is still unprepared.”

The president’s reaction was derisory. “Now AP estimates that the real Cuomo number of people killed because of his total incompetence is 11,000, not the 6000 that was originally thought!” he tweeted.

It is true that a directive from the New York state health authorities in March sent several thousand recovering Covid-19 patients back to nursing homes, where many elderly residents were subsequently infected and killed by the virus. The 11,000 figure, however, is an estimate.

The Associated Press has tallied the proportion of Covid-19 deaths recorded in nursing homes in all 43 states that break out the data on where deaths occurred; its figure for New York is a calculation based on the overall proportion of nursing home deaths across the US.

In another message, the president mocked Mr Cuomo for having once acknowledged the federal government’s help with the crisis in his state. “Cuomo, just like his brother Fredo, has not got a very good memory!”

Mr Trump then summoned seemingly as many hostile retweets as he could against the governor, including from various staffers at the president’s own re-election campaign.

“Andrew Cuomo’s ego trip continues,” wrote the Republicans’ rapid response director Steve Guest. “He gave a 5 minute speech and didn’t mention Joe Biden until last 20 seconds or so.”

Some of the retweets focused on deaths in New York State nursing homes.

Fox Business Network host Melissa Francis laid into what she implied were the consequences of the governor’s actions. “@NYGovCuomo is responsible for thousands and thousands of nursing home deaths. An estimated one million people have moved out of his state for good. He is $14B in the hole... and counting.”

While it is true that New York has lost more than a million people to other states on a net basis, that figure refers to migration over the last decade, not since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Cuomo has been governor since 2011.

Meanwhile, along with his barrage of hostile messages about Mr Cuomo, Mr Trump retweeted various articles and messages about the Russia investigation, the crisis over the postal service, and the supposed hypocrisy of left-leaning protesters in Seattle assembling without wearing masks.

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