On Friday, the world woke up to some shocking news. US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus.
The news throws a spanner into Trump's scheduled public appearances in the crucial final weeks of the 2020 Presidential election campaign. The positive test reports came just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week.
Trump took to Twitter to announce the news, adding that he and Melania had instantly gone into quarantine and were currently in the process of recovery.
While the news brought forth an outpouring of good wishes and prayers on social media, many couldn't help but recall the time when Trump had gone viral for claiming that the coronavirus was a hoax. While some were sarcastic, others reproached him for calling coronavirus a "hoax" earlier in September and for his general overall attitude of downplaying the pandemic and the importance of wearing masks.
Yet others made memes. Within hours, there were thousands of tweets regarding the President's "hoax" comment under the #TrumpHasCovid hashtag.
But did Trump really call coronavirus a hoax?
Well, not exactly.
While the POTUS has on several occasions downplayed the severity of the pandemic by claiming it will go away in the hot weather and even refused to wear masks, he never actually said the words "coronavirus is a hoax". According to a fact-check conducted by the Associated Press, the rumour began after Democratic nominee Joe Biden tweeted a cleverly doctored video of Trump titled "Trump in public: 'Hoax.' Trump in private: 'Killer.'"
In the video, depicting Trump from the February 28 campaign rally in South Carolina, has him say the words, "The coronavirus — and this is their new hoax."
This was not actually what he said.
The accusation and selective video editing are misleading. At the rally featured in the video, Trump actually said the phrases “the coronavirus” and “this is their new hoax” at separate points. Although his meaning is difficult to discern, the broader context of his words shows he was railing against Democrats for their denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response.
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said. “You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it.” He meandered briefly to the subject of the messy Democratic primary in Iowa, then the Russia investigation before returning to the pandemic. “They tried the impeachment hoax. ... And this is their new hoax.”
Asked at a news conference the next day to clarify his remarks, Trump made clear he was not referring to the coronavirus itself as a hoax.
“No, no, no.” he said. ”‘Hoax’ referring to the action that they take to try and pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job. The hoax is on them, not -- I’m not talking about what’s happening here. I’m talking what they’re doing. That’s the hoax.”
He continued: “Certainly not referring to this. How could anybody refer to this? This is very serious stuff.”
The video’s reference to "Trump in private" calling the virus a "killer" is also misrepresented as it was not said in private. It came from his interview in April with author and journalist Bob Woodward, whose new book "Rage" contains Trump's acknowledgment that he was playing down the virus threat in public, so as to avoid panic.
But it was incorrect for Biden to suggest, as the video does, that Trump insisted the virus was a hoax before ultimately acknowledging to the author in April that it was deadly and serious.
That being said, Trump has on ample occasions resorted to spreading misinformation about the virus. ‘Miracle Cure’ to ‘Plandemic’, Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of misinformation on COVID, a study from Cornell University recently found.
Previously Trump had said that coronavirus will just "go away" without a vaccine. He also said that it will go away a lot faster because the US is just three or four weeks away from developing a vaccine.
"We're very close to having a vaccine. We're within weeks of getting it you know — could be three weeks, four weeks," he said.
Trump, 74, was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and looked to be in good health.