Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden said during a CNN town hall Thursday that “all the people” who have died of COVID-19 would still be alive if President Donald Trump had responded properly to the pandemic.
In Biden’s view, President Trump is directly responsible for every single person who died from the novel coronavirus that originated in China late last year and spread around the world.
“If the president had done his job, had done his job from the beginning, all the people would still be alive,” Biden said. “All the people — I’m not making this up. Just look at the data. Look at the data.”
Biden did not specify what data he was referring to, which is likely because no such data exists to prove that every one of the nearly 200,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths was preventable by some presidential action. Even nations that implemented earlier and more severe lockdowns and travel restrictions than the U.S. have suffered COVID-19 deaths.
It becomes particularly difficult to blame the deaths in a place like New York City on the president’s response, although New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly tried to do so. Cuomo has taken to calling COVID-19 the “European virus,” blaming Trump for not banning travel from Europe sooner than he did, and ducking responsibility for the deaths caused by his policy of sending people infected with COVID-19 into nursing homes.
Even media outlets with a tendency to be critical of the president could not allow Biden’s outrageous claim to stand unchecked. The Washington Post, in a fact-check article titled, “Biden’s CNN town hall: An occasional whopper,” accused Biden of “making this up.”
“There is no data to support this, even if the president had moved rapidly in January to deal with the coronavirus and been able to persuade the Chinese leadership to be more forthcoming about the situation,” the article states.
Biden’s claim that Trump could have prevented all COVID-19 deaths is an escalation of a previous claim the former VP has made, that if Trump had called for a lockdown a month earlier than he did then he could’ve saved up to 60,000 lives.
President Trump restricted travel from China at the end of January. Biden, who at the time was in the midst of the Democratic primary, continued holding campaign events well into March even as it became clear COVID-19 would have a significant impact on the U.S.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta made a similar claim against the president on CNN, as the panel was discussing a report that the White House scrapped a plan to send masks to every household via U.S. Postal Service in the spring. Gupta cited an anonymous source who told him Trump could have saved 80% to 90% of lives by following the right guidance on COVID-19 dating back to February.
CNN published a Q&A post in late February telling people not to wear masks unless they were sick or interacting with sick people.