On Tuesday, after his self-invite to appear weekly on Fox & Friends didn’t go over so well with the show’s hosts, the president made his way over to an ABC studio to record a town hall aired later that night. Never one to be particularly strong discussing points of policy, Trump did not thrive in the Q&A format.
Highlights of the event included Trump saying he “up-played” the coronavirus, the week after audio emerged that proved he was downplaying the threat; and Trump condemning the Democratic Party for not instituting a national mask mandate, despite being out of power. When asked about soaring inequality during the pandemic, Trump claimed that “stocks are owned by everybody,” to the surprise of 45 percent of American adults who are not invested in the market. And when Trump tried to explain how the coronavirus would eventually “go away” with or without a vaccine, he once again showed his willful ignorance on the matter, despite the pandemic’s staggering death toll and its threat to his presidency.
“You’ll develop like a herd mentality,” Trump said, almost certainly meaning herd immunity. “It’s going to be, going to be herd-developed and that’s going to happen.”
While both candidates are prone to making gaffes, Trump’s ignorance here goes beyond just a confusion of two similar-sounding phrases. In the exchange, Trump is downplaying the ease at which the country would reach the threshold level for herd immunity and “up-playing” the chances that a vaccine arrives on a prompt timeline — all while ignoring the deaths that will occur in either scenario.
The past two days have been packed with presidential misunderstandings of basic science vital to American politics. In a visit to California on Monday, the president suggested that the state would face a reprieve from the wildfires that threaten its present and future, claiming “it’ll start getting cooler … you just watch.” When confronted with his clearly false answer — Trump’s EPA acknowledges that California faces more severe warming than most states — he said, “Well, I don’t think science knows, actually.”