Who got to Donald Trump?

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Donald Trump’s press conference on Monday was his worst one yet. It was such an abomination that most major TV networks had to pull the plug on him. Here’s the odd thing, though: Trump rather curiously made a point of trying to walk back one of his own favorite tropes.

Even as recently as Sunday, Donald Trump was still making a point of referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” He said it in press conferences. He said it repeatedly in tweets. He was clearly trying to stir up racist division as a way of distracting everyone from his own failure. But during his otherwise cataclysmic press conference on Monday, Trump took a moment to strongly condemn anti-Asian xenophobia in the United States. Huh?

Let’s be real here. Trump is far too sociopathic to suddenly care about the fact that his own racist language has helped incite harassment and violence against Asian Americans. Instead, as is always the case with this guy, there has to be something in it for himself. Someone who has influence over Trump surely told him that he must say this today.


Of course Donald Trump is a creature of habit, so by tomorrow he could be right back to yelling around about the “Chinese Virus.” But if only for a brief moment, someone appears to have gotten to Trump, and forced him to pull back on one of the most ugly and dangerous things he’s been saying. The question is who, and how they pulled it off.

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