Trump bringing back daily coronavirus briefings that he was accused of using as rallies

President cites ratings as nation sees dramatic surge in new infections

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 20 July 2020 12:56 BST
Donald Trump says White House coronavirus briefings will return

Donald Trump will resume his White House coronavirus press briefings, which he stopped in April, as the nation's infections surge past 3.7 million and deaths top more than 140,000.

The president announced that a briefing is tentatively scheduled for 5pm on Tuesday, as he hailed the television ratings that he received for his previous ones.

"We had a lot of people watching ... in the history of cable television, there's never been anything like it," he said.

White House officials pulled the president from daily briefings after he had routinely contradicted health officials, including dangerously suggesting that Covid-19 patients should ingest disinfectants to combat the disease.

He also has complained that he was met with "hostile" questions from journalists at the freewheeling events.

"They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!" he said on 25 April.

The near-daily briefings began in March at the onset of the pandemic, though the president's false statements, airing of grievances against his political opponents and unfiltered platform for misinformation prompted several media outlets to stop airing them while the administration was scrutinised over its response to the pandemic.

His most recent coronavirus-focused event open to the press was a July roundtable discussing schools' opening in the fall, but he has reportedly not attended any coronavirus task force meeting since April.

Faced with declining poll numbers amid a growing public health crisis that Americans have linked to the administration's response, the president's attention has moved elsewhere – preserving statues, protecting law enforcement and attacking his rivals while condemning suggestions that the US scale back its reopenings despite no clear plan to prevent potential outbreaks.

Without traditional campaign rallies to reach his base, the president has relied on White House appearances and press conferences to amplify his rally-style rhetoric.

At a Rose Garden event intended to announce new punishments against China for its actions in Hong Kong, the president delivered a partially scripted, hour-long attack against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Donald Trump says he takes no responsibility for people ingesting disinfectant despite telling them to

The administration also has publicly sparred with Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert who has consulted on the federal response to the crisis, who emerged as a more realistic presence alongside the president during coronavirus briefings.

But as he testified to Congress and echoed concerns among health officials and medical experts about the rush to reopen states, White House officials circulated materials to reporters outlining claims that Dr Fauci got it "wrong" about coronavirus, and Trump adviser Dan Scavino posted a political cartoon to Facebook that mocked him.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Dr Fauci called the attacks "bizarre" and claimed that they ultimately reflect poorly against the president and his administration.

"I think they realise now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it's only reflecting negatively on them," he said.

The president reportedly had not talked with Dr Fauci for weeks until last week.

During an interview with Fox News that aired on Sunday, Mr Trump called Dr Fauci a "little bit of an alarmist" as the president downplayed the nation's mortality rate and insisted that he would eventually be proven "right" about the federal response.

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