Donald Trump’s final lose-lose gambit

A week before Election Day, President Barack Obama campaigned for Joe Biden at a drive-in rally in Florida. Obama slammed Trump for complaining that the media was spending too much time covering the coronavirus pandemic. “He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage!” he told the crowd to laughter. “If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country this week!”

Obama was absolutely right, of course. Although it sounds humorous, it’s a sad fact that Trump feels threatened when anyone or anything grabs headlines. Given Trump’s fragile ego, you would think fighting for a quick victory over the virus would be the perfect win-win strategy. Not only would Trump’s name become interwoven with every positive development, but the pandemic would end sooner, which would mean the media would stop needing to cover it.

The thing is, Trump doesn’t do “win-win.” Solutions that benefit Trump are far less appealing to him if they also involve helping others in the process, because Trump is truly that evil. So, instead of trying to defeat the virus as quickly as possible (even for selfish reasons), Trump opted for a solution that would accomplish his goal of lowering media coverage of the pandemic while actually adding to the pain of the millions of Americans he swore an oath to protect.

On May 5, the Trump administration quietly released guidelines requiring hospitals to get prior permission from not only patients whom journalists wish to interview but “every patient who is or will be in the area.” This scared hospitals into thinking twice before welcoming photographers and TV crews and risking millions of dollars in HIPAA fines.

The announcement of the guidelines was not reported by general-interest publications, according to a new report from The Intercept. Now, months after the guidelines took effect, their existence appears to explain why Americans have seen so little disturbing imagery of coronavirus patients suffering. In a review of the media’s visual coverage of the pandemic, The Intercept found that the vast majority of images have been of doctors and nurses or people merely wearing masks or awaiting test results.

Trump’s media-suppression guidelines, which take up all but two sides of a page, have contributed substantially to the phenomenon of people denying the pandemic’s seriousness even as it has been spiraling out of control. This skepticism, in turn, has led to more people ignoring precautions while the pandemic has raged on to claim hundreds of thousands of lives while creating more unnecessary suffering.


Trump has achieved his goal of lowering media coverage of the pandemic over the past several months. He did it by bullying hospitals into barring most coverage, thus amplifying the effects and duration of this monumental tragedy even further. There are no words to accurately capture the extent of Trump’s sinister and depraved nature. This monster’s final day in office may be only days away, but it can’t come soon enough.

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