Here's how Trump’s coronavirus strategy is like his Hurricane Maria response
US President Donald Trump speaks about the impeachment inquiry during a tour of the Flextronics computer manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post this Friday, numbers cruncher Phillip Bump argues that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus crisis is reminiscent of its response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where President Trump traveled to the island and severely underestimated the death toll from the disaster.


"Trump insisted on hyping the low number, though, because in the moment, it made his administration’s response seem less inadequate," Bump writes. "Only 16 people died? Why, President George W. Bush’s handling of Katrina was therefore far worse! When later estimates suggested a death toll closer to 3,000, Trump said openly that those numbers were wrong, without actually indicating what the accurate numbers might be."

According to Bump, we're now seeing the same strategy play out in response to the coronavirus: hype low numbers and insist that everything’s under control, even when the evidence is to the contrary. As the virus continued to spread, Trump deflected blame and obfuscated the facts while speaking to the press. Ultimately, Trump's focus didn't seem to be on getting ahead of the virus. Instead, he was focused on the criticism his administration was receiving -- all while cases in the U.S. continued to rise.

Bump acknowledges that the reported cases relative to the population is small. "As with Hurricane Maria, though, it’s obvious that things will continue to get worse," he writes.

"Trump and his team diminish that reality in part because they do want Americans (including or especially investors) to remain calm," Bump continues. "But Trump clearly also wants to ensure that his administration is viewed as handling the virus’s spread capably, necessitating that he revise his metrics as he goes to emphasize low numbers while ignoring spikes in numbers he suggested wouldn’t spike."

Read his full op-ed over at The Washington Post.