“President @realDonaldTrump acted early and decisively… His every move has been aimed at keeping Americans safe, while Joe Biden has sought to capitalize politically and stoke citizens’ fears,” tweeted Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, quoting the campaign’s communications director.
“When @JoeBiden was faced with a public health crisis on H1N1, he pushed the panic button and the White House had to cover it,” read a message retweeted by Donald Jr.
Other tweets in the president’s news feed framed recent comments from Biden opposing xenophobia as opposition to Trump’s temporary ban on travel from China.
“If Biden had been in charge, more Americans would have contracted the virus faster,” a Trump campaign account tweeted.
And in response to a Biden speech in which the former vice president criticized the president for labeling COVID-19 a “foreign virus,” Laura Ingraham tweeted: “Yeah, Joe! Let’s throw open our borders, our airports, our ports to anyone and everyone—that will really stem the infection rate!”
Narrative #3: Trump is doing a great job
Critique of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is largely absent from his Twitter feed. Instead, his allies have heaped praise on the administration’s response.
“Deeply impressive extraordinary partnership of America’s best and brightest business & government gathered at White House under leadership of @realDonaldTrump & @VP,” tweeted Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera after Friday’s national emergency declaration. “They and we are going to kick #Corona’s ass.”
“This is a very good call,” conservative political commentator Eric Bolling tweeted on Friday in response to reports that Trump was planning to declare a national emergency.
“This is the leadership @realDonaldTrump was elected to provide,” tweeted Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, after the president’s Oval Office address on Wednesday night. “Acting early & decisively he put the U.S. on much better footing than other nations in handling the coronavirus.”
“President Trump is exactly right: ‘smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow,’” tweeted Congressman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican close to the White House. “The President’s actions are proactive and decisive. This is exactly what we need to keep Americans safe and healthy.”
And a tweet from Eric Trump shared simply the headline of an adulatory New York Post column: “Trump passes coronavirus test with flying colors.”
Narrative #4: The media is fueling the panic…
The president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., has led the Trump Twitterverse’s charge against the mainstream press’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. In his posts and retweets, he’s accused news outlets of stoking panic and helping China spread propaganda.
“That the US media is trying to run with the Chinese propaganda that ‘China bought us time’ is a new low even for them,” Donald Jr. tweeted in response to a New York Times op-ed. “F-you!”
“The media has thrown everything at [Trump] and none of it has stuck,” said YouTube personality Dave Rubin in a tweet shared by Donald Jr. “So now they have a vested interest in spreading panic, rejoicing over market drops and sewing general chaos.”
“This Chinese propaganda about the origin of the coronavirus is being directly amplified and aided by the U.S. media, which is censoring anyone who notes the Wuhan origin of the coronavirus,” said Mike Cernovich, a right-wing activist and conspiracy theorist, in a post retweeted by Donald Jr.
“CNN is literally taking its talking points from the Chinese government,” read another Cernovich tweet shared by the president’s son.
Other accounts followed by the president sounded a similar tone.
“Erring on the side of maximum transparency is a good thing for the White House given the mass hysteria being stoked by the partisans in media and politics with [the] goal of affecting the election,” tweeted Laura Ingraham.
“I just want to stress to politicians and the media to stop using [coronavirus] as a tool to politicize things and to scare people,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet shared by McDaniel. “It’s not responsible. This is not the time for this.”
Narrative #5: …but there’s no reason to panic!
During a March 4 phone call with Sean Hannity, Trump falsely implied the coronavirus outbreak was not as bad as the seasonal flu—an idea he may have picked up from his Twitter followers, who have downplayed the virus’ threat.
“They say the mortality rate for Coronavirus is higher than the flu,” tweeted Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. “Consider though that we have a flu vaccine and yet in 2019, 16,000 Americans died from the flu. Imagine if we did not have that vaccine. The flu would be a pandemic.”
“The word ‘pandemic’ is scary, but as @drsanjaygupta points out, it doesn’t speak to mortality rates, only to global scope of infection,” Ingraham tweeted in late February. “As @CDCgov notes, actual mortality rates or coronavirus is very low.”
On Friday morning, Ingraham tweeted a link to an article headlined: “Coronavirus: Facts vs. Panic,” which stated “most people who get coronavirus have mild or no symptoms” and “most around the world diagnosed from January-March 1 have already recovered.”
“Great time to fly if not in at-risk population!” Ingraham wrote Friday from the aisle seat of a Chicago-bound United flight.