On Thursday, during a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump cracked jokes with reporters present at the event. Per Mediaite, before delivering his prepared remarks, Trump said that the practice of social distancing has made the media “much nicer.”
“I think with social distancing, the media has been much nicer. I don’t know what it is,” Trump said, noting that reporters are now maintaining a safe distance between each other, with empty chairs between them.
“All of these empty, in-between chairs. We probably should not have anyone sitting behind you either. You should probably go back. But I love it. It is so much nicer.”
“But I shouldn’t say that because you will get me now,” he added.
The president was apparently in a jovial mood, as he kept cracking jokes and making similar comments throughout the entirety of the conference. He jokingly suggested that only two or three reporters that he likes should stay to question him, which one reporter described as “anti-media humor.”
The Trump administration’s response to the crisis has been criticized by members of the press and Democratic Party politicians, with many suggesting that the president initially downplayed the severity of the outbreak.
For instance, earlier this week, when asked whether the rich and the well-connected are able to “go to the front of the line” and get tested, Trump said that he “wouldn’t say so” but noted that “perhaps that’s been the story of life.”
“That does happen on occasion and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly,” he said.
Both the Trump administration and the United States Congress have begun undertaking measures to combat the spread of the virus and stimulate the sinking economy. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a $1 trillion emergency economic aid proposal. This followed a similar economic aid package passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
The Republican proposal — which includes aid for industries and businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis — also suggests giving direct cash payments to American citizens. Some GOP lawmakers have expressed opposition to direct cash payments, with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham saying that it would be better to “beef up the unemployment system.”
With the administration making an effort to tackle the pandemic, Trump’s approval rating has increased. Two weeks ago, according to a new poll by YouGov and The Economist, 56 percent of Americans disapproved of how Trump was handling the coronavirus crisis. This week, 45 percent approve, and 46 percent disapprove of how the president is handling the situation.