‘He's jealous of Covid’s media coverage’: Obama ridicules Trump at Florida rally

Joan E Greve in Washington, Joanna Walters in New York and Maanvi Singh in Oakland
·4-min read

Barack Obama ridiculed Donald Trump at a Florida rally on Tuesday for the president’s complaints about the media closely covering the national coronavirus crisis.

The 44th president has recently abandoned traditional decorum where a former president refrains from publicly criticizing his successor, lambasting the 45th president in recent speeches for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, in particular.

At a drive-in rally in Orlando to boost support for his former vice-president and now Democratic nominee for the White House, Joe Biden, Obama took a tone combining mockery of Trump with indignation.

He spoke of record numbers dying of coronavirus in the US and asked rhetorically of the president: “What is his closing argument?” with the election just a week away.

“That people are too focused on Covid. He said this at one of his rallies ‘Covid, Covid, Covid’, he is complaining. He is jealous of Covid’s media coverage,” Obama said with mock incredulity as the crowd laughed.

At a rally on Saturday in North Carolina, Trump did say those words and complained that the media was paying too much attention to coronavirus, even as he claimed record case numbers are exaggerated and downplayed the death rates.

Obama said: “If he had been focused on Covid from the beginning, cases would not be reaching record highs across the country this week, the White House would not be having its second outbreak in a month.

Staff working for Mike Pence, the vice-president, have come down with Covid, it was revealed at the weekend, just a few weeks after Trump, his wife and youngest son all had coronavirus and multiple prominent people tested positive after the event at the White House to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court.

Obama also roasted the White House for chief of staff Mark Meadows’s remark on television at the weekend that the administration was not going to control the pandemic.

Obama said: “Winter is coming. They are waving the white flag of surrender. Florida, we can’t afford four more years of this, that’s why we’ve got to send Joe Biden to the White House.”

The former president’s speech came as newly released figures show more than 70 million Americans have already cast their votes.

As of Tuesday evening, 70,032,485 people have voted either in person or absentee, according to the US Elections Project.

The overwhelming enthusiasm could put this year on pace to see historic participation rates, perhaps higher than any in more than a century. Thus far, early voters have favored Democrats in most states that provide data on who is voting early, but Republicans have been narrowing the gap.

Democratic campaigners, meanwhile, are urging voters to turn in absentee ballots at drop boxes, instead of relying on the US postal service – to ensure that votes are received on time and counted. Yesterday, the supreme court blocked officials in Wisconsin from counting votes that are sent by election day but arrive later, and the court is expected to rule on similar cases in North Carolina and Pennsylvania before election day.

Among the endorsers of dropping off one’s ballot – Lady Gaga.

Both presidential candidates were in key election states on Tuesday evening, holding rallies a week before election day.

Joe Biden appeared at a drive-in rally in Atlanta that had 365 cars and 771 people attending, according to a reporter on Twitter, one of the largest rallies Biden has held since the pandemic.

Biden struck an optimistic tone when addressing the crowd. “I think we’re going to surprise the living devil out of everybody this year,” he said. “I can’t tell you how important it is that we flip the United States Senate. There’s no state more consequential than Georgia.”

Meanwhile, Trump was West Salem, Wisconsin, doing a lap in his motorcade around the LaCross Fairgrounds Speedway track. At his rally, Trump downplayed the pandemic even as Wisconsin sees its highest number of Covid infections yet. He’s criticizing the “fake news” for focusing on Covid.

Trump also hit back at Obama’s speech, describing it on Twitter that it was a “no crowd, fake speech” and slammed conservative Fox News for airing it.

Lauren Aratani contributed reporting