Donald Trump reportedly ordered the federal government to launch a $300 million, taxpayer-funded ad campaign to “defeat despair” about coronavirus, one that is drawing widespread criticism.
Details of the ad blitz were shared in a Friday report from Politico, which noted that the administration had already conducted interviews with celebrities like actor Dennis Quaid. Politico noted that the advertising blitz was shaped by Michael Caputo, a political appointee with close ties to Trump and pulled off by close allies. Citing six individuals with knowledge of the plans, the outlet said that it will discuss the coronavirus crisis and steps the Trump administration has taken to combat it.
The ads are slated to start airing before Election Day, the outlet noted, and are already drawing scrutiny from Democrats who claim that it is meant to boost Trump’s public standing on the coronavirus response.
Many questioned the timing of the reported ad blitz, saying it appears to be a highly political effort.
“CDC hasn’t yet done an awareness campaign about Covid guidelines — but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?” said Josh Peck, who worked with the Obama White House on an advertising campaign for HealthCare.gov.
“It’s like every red flag I could dream of.”
Others slammed the idea of Trump using taxpayer funds to create advertisements that seemed to praise his own response to the virus.
“The Trump administration took $300 million from the CDC mid-pandemic so they could make ads with Dennis Quaid saying Trump did a good job,” tweeted Democratic consultant Ian Sams. “Unreal.”
The report sparked some viral backlash, with many taking aim directly at Quaid. His name shot to the top of Twitter’s trends on Friday as many criticized his involvement in what they saw as a partisan effort to help the president instead of an apolitical effort to protect Americans from the spread of coronavirus.
The actor had publicly praised Trump’s response to the pandemic, telling The Daily Beast in April that he was doing a good job of giving the American people and individual states what they needed to fight the spread of the virus while still holding the American economy together and preparing for what would happen when the pandemic was over.
Critics have claimed the opposite, saying Trump failed to take the necessary steps to keep Americans safe and intentionally downplayed the severity of the pandemic.