President Donald Trump boasted about the state of economy Monday afternoon, not even an hour after the markets closed on the worst day of investor panic in two years.
The S&P 500 lost 3.3 percent as fears about the spreading coronavirus outbreak spiked, and the Dow Jones tumbled 1,000 points. It was the worst decline since February 2018, CNN reported.
Analysts broadly agreed that the sudden stock market plunge was a result of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, which started in China but has spread to Italy, South Korea and elsewhere, triggering expectations that it could be harder to contain than had been hoped.
“We are at a turning point in the Covid-19 epidemic,” Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, told Vox, using the name for the specific virus. “We must prepare for the foreseeable possibility, even probability, that Covid-19 may soon become a pandemic affecting countries on virtually all continents.”
But amidst this news — and clearly fearful of the impact the outbreak could have on his policial standing — Trump is resorting to a blatant defiance of reality:
The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020
While there doesn’t appear to be a massive outbreak in the U.S. at this point, the virus’s spread in other countries makes its proliferation here a more significant possibility. (However, it’s far from clear how severe an outbreak would be, as the mortality rate from the infection is uncertain.)
But the fact that Trump would tell such an absurd lie about the stock market on its worst day in two years is deeply disturbing. We need no new evidence that he’s an unrepentant liar, of course, but this kind of outright deception and effort to instill distrust of other news sources is extremely dangerous in the time of a public health emergency. Citizens and institutions need to be able to look to the government and the news media for reliable information to keep themselves safe. Trump has no interest in preserving this trust, however; he’s only interested in winning every individual news cycle.