Trump administration failing to calm public fears of coronavirus: they're 'losing the capacity to be seen as serious'
President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened yet more "major retaliation" if Tehran hits back, including on Iranian cultural sites. (AFP/File / JIM WATSON)

On Tuesday, the Washington Post profiled the Trump administration's efforts to assuage public fears about the coronavirus pandemic — and noted they have become mired in serious credibility problems that damage their ability to direct the public.


"The rosy sheen that Trump, [economic adviser Larry] Kudlow, and other White House officials have tried to express about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak has now collided with reality: The coronavirus is spreading, quickly, to more countries," wrote Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey. "The death toll is rising, and the outbreak is wreaking havoc on global supply chains. Efforts to detect and contain it have failed."

The report continued: "And the White House’s efforts to contain and control government messaging on the disease have come under attack. Trump is highly concerned about the market and has encouraged aides not to give predictions that might cause further tremors. He is expected to talk to officials on Wednesday, said aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations."

The president has claimed that the virus is "totally under control," and Kudlow has described it as "contained" — statements at odds with public health officials, and which would gravely undermine the administration if a worst-case scenario occurs.

"You don't want to overly feed the darkness, but if you seem like all you do is happy talk then you lose credibility," former White House economic adviser Gene Sperling told the Post. "You get a three-hour high from your happy talk, but lose the long-term ability to be seen as serious, factual and potentially reassuring at a later point when it might be justified. This White House may already be in danger of losing the capacity to be seen as serious."