For much of this week, Donald Trump has lashed out at news media reports which he claims have been deliberately portraying the coronavirus outbreak to be “as bad as possible,” with the apparent aim of “panicking markets,” as quoted by Mediaite. He accused CNN of attempting to “instill fear” in Americans, and described criticism of his administration’s response to the virus as a “new hoax.”
In a Sunday Twitter message quoted by Mediaite, Trump ramped up his attack on the media, though his tweet did not specifically mention coronavirus coverage. Instead, he declared that “people are disgusted and embarrassed by the Fake News Media,” going on to list such outlets as The New York Times, Washington Post, and what he referred to as “MSDNC” as examples of outlets that have supposedly left Americans in a state of disgust.
“They no longer believe what they see and read, and for good reason,” Trump wrote. “Fake News is, indeed, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
Trump’s tweet was immediately criticized by Brookings Institute Senior Fellow and former White House ethics official Norm Eisen, who said on his Twitter account that attacks on information sources are “criminal in a time of pandemic.”
With about 86,500 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, the U.S. has now seen 74 diagnoses of the disease, including three cases reported on Sunday. Two of those new cases occurred in Washington state, which has now seen eight cases including one fatality, and one of Sunday’s three occurred in Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island case was the first to be reported in that state. While few details about the patient have been released, according to a CNN report, the person is now under treatment at a hospital, the name of which has not been disclosed, as authorities investigate anyone who may have come in contact with the coronavirus victim.
The Rhode Island victim is reported to have returned from a trip to Italy on February 22. That country has been among the hardest hit by the outbreak, with more than 1,100 cases reported. Numerous other cases in the U.S. — including the victim who perished as a result of a coronavirus infection in Washington — have acquired the virus from unknown sources, according to the CNN report.
Vice President Mike Pence, who on Thursday was named to lead the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, said on Sunday that the risk to “the average American” remained “low,” as quoted by CNN.