Updated: Oct 18, 2021
30 million views. On August 3rd, 2020, an interview between President Donald Trump and Jonathan Swan, a political reporter for Axios, aired nationally. The next day, social media feeds were flooded with clips of the interview, which amassed over 30 million views in a matter of hours. The interview also increased the viewership for ‘Axios on HBO’ by over 33%. Why did this happen?
The answer to this question is the countless times Trump fumbled and blatantly lied throughout the interview. Daniel Dane, a political analyst for CNN, found that throughout the 38-minute interview, Trump made over 17 false claims. With many of these claims including comedic and inarticulate responses from the President, it is no wonder why the interview went viral. However, beneath the comedy lies substance for concern for the United States and its citizens.
“Read the manuals”
After Trump claims during the interview that there are experts who say it is possible to over-test for COVID-19, Swan presses for details. In response to this, Trump tells him to simply “read the manuals,” so Swan questions, “What manuals.” In response to this, Trump says to “read the books.” Not only does Trump completely avoid Swan’s question—obviously, there are no “manuals” on this matter—he continues to foster the misconception that testing for COVID-19 is a detrimental action.
Although there are individuals who can pinpoint the fallacies and lies Trump uses to substantiate his claims, there is a vast population that strongly supports him and is blind to his untrue statements. At an unprecedented time where the pandemic has taken the lives of nearly 750,000 people around the world, it is crucial to conduct testing and isolate the people infected to mitigate the virus. However, Trump’s claims perpetuate the opposite of the truth, intensifying an already severe public health crisis.
“It’s under control”
With 5.46 million cases and 170,000 deaths due to COVID-19, during the interview Trump claims that the situation is “ under control.” After Swan retorts that a thousand Americans were dying each day, Trump says “it is what it is.”
Trump’s claims are laughably inaccurate and contribute to a false sense of security for many across the country. However, they reveal something more profound about the President. His response to Americans dying each day demonstrates a lack of empathy and care for the American people. Trump is in a position that grants him the reins to the most powerful nation in the world. However, his alarming admittance of defeat (“It is what it is”) to the deaths that occur daily in his nation raises concerns over whether he should hold this position in the first place.
“[The U.S.] is lower than the world”
In efforts to possibly make up for past fumbles in the interview, Trump goes on to boast that the U.S. is “lower than the world.” He uses misleading charts in an attempt to obscure the severity of the U.S.’s outbreak compared to other countries. But Swan sees right through this and exposes the charts’ quantification of deaths of those who have the coronavirus, rather than the death rate of the entire population as a result of the coronavirus—a less extrapolated number. In response, Trump fumbles, a likely reason for the millions of views on social media.
Not only is this another clear attempt at spreading misinformation to the American public, but this portion of the interview also highlights another aspect of Trump’s Presidency: hypocrisy. Throughout his term, Trump and his administration have been notorious for denying evidence and scientific facts in regards to climate change, the pandemic, and more. However, in this portion of the interview, Trump attempts to use science—data from various charts, tables, and graphs—to back up his false claims. It is quite clear that there is a “pick-and-choose” nature to Trump’s reasoning, which is simply unacceptable. Rather than picking and choosing when to believe science and the hard-facts, the Trump administration must consult it at all times to make informed decisions for the citizens of America.
“I did more for the Black community than anybody”
Yes, Trump said this. To justify this outlandish claim he concedes, “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” In response to this, Swan asks Trump if he thinks he did more than Lyndon Johnson, who passed the Civil Rights Act, to which Trump responds yes.
With this claim, the Trump administration not only suggests that its policies outweigh Black people’s basic right to vote and equality but also undermines the struggles the Black population had to go through to validate monumental policies like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
Unfortunately, there are Americans who still believe that Trump has made many effective changes to benefit Black communities. Trump recently claimed that under his administration, the U.S. has “the best numbers for African Americans on employment and unemployment in history…best everything” Although the numbers he is referring to indicate that African Americans are doing well in terms of employment rates, the boost in employment and reduction in unemployment was a long-term implication of Obama’s presidency, not Trump’s. Obama was able to spark the improvement in African American unemployment during his administration and it continued through to Trump’s. Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau, the median income of a Black household dropped to $41,361 in 2018, during Trump’s term. In 2000, the median income was $43,380, demonstrating immense regression in this metric. Thus, it is clear that despite Trump’s claims, he hasn’t done much for the Black community, especially when compared to Lincoln and Johnson.
“[John Lewis] didn’t come to my inauguration”
When Trump is asked how history will remember John Lewis, he deflects the question and instead brings up the fact that Lewis didn’t attend his inauguration or State of the Union speeches. Even when Swan asks him repeatedly whether Trump believed Lewis was impressive, the President continues to bring up Lewis’ attendance of past events and decides to disrespect the memory of a renowned civil rights activist by saying he made a “big mistake.”
Lewis was one of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement and advocated for African American rights through continuous activism for decades. By ignoring Swan’s prods to discuss Lewis’ accomplishments and success, Trump undermines a key figure in African American history. What’s most revolting, Trump likely didn’t perceive his comments as disrespectful, which demonstrates a lack of awareness from the White House for vital aspects of American history and a lack of empathy for African-Americans in general.
The millions of views on social media likely demonstrate that many people found the fallacies in Trump’s interview to be comedic and ridiculous. Beyond just being comedic, however, the interview raises major flags about Trump’s presidency in the first place and the future of our country if he is reelected.