Graham — who had to self-quarantine after he was exposed to the infection during a visit to Trump’s Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago — initially downplayed the new coronavirus, inaccurately comparing it, as Trump did, to the flu in a March 3 interview with Carolina Connection, a South Carolina TV station.
Days later, however, Graham tried a new tack, lauding Trump as a “wartime president” on the president’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.” Graham also blamed the media for overhyping the threat and covering the pandemic like “a series of plane crashes,” while himself comparing the pandemic to the September 11 attacks.
“The impeachment debacle has been replaced by the spirit of 9/11,” he said. “I think America is under attack. It’s under attack by a virus that can be destroyed if we stay away from each other.”
On April 7, Graham told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that he would consider Trump’s performance a success if COVID-19 deaths stayed under the 50,000 mark.
“So, have we acted decisively? If we could hold the death rate below 50,000, God willing — every death is terrible —but I would say we’ve acted decisively,'” he said.
As of April 7, the U.S. had reported about 10,000 pandemic deaths.
Graham, in an April 9 appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, told the host it was time to “get the United States Senate on the record” in officially pinning blame on China for the public health and economic devastation that the pandemic had wrought.
“We don’t blame Trump, we blame China,” Graham said, echoing almost verbatim the GOP talking points circulated in a memo to all Republican senators, advising them on how to distance themselves from the president.
But Graham once again upped his metric of success, from 50,000 to anywhere under 100,000.
“The president in my view has avoided 2.2 million Americans from dying because he rejected the herd theory, let it run through the society, we’ll build up immunity. Thank God he rejected that. Under the best scenario we are looking at 100,000 to 240,000 deaths,” he told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “I think we are going to beat that.'”
About ten days later, the death toll cleared the 50,000 metric Graham had established earlier that month.
Then in May, the South Carolina Republican emphasized again that the historic economic crash did not reflect Trump’s failures, but Trump’s noble prioritization of human lives. The staunch abortion opponent coyly attributed this to what he called Trump’s “pro-life” stance in a May 5 appearance on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.”
“Look, 70,000 people [have] died with us locking the whole world down, so the president put life — he is pro-life in the real sense of the word — he put life ahead of his economic success. The economy came to a grinding halt — not because of anything bad about the economy — to save lives. Now we’re trying to balance how to turn it on,” said Graham. “I think he’s done a really good job.'”
Two days later, Graham told reporters during a visit to a chemical plant in his home state that reopening the economy would be “the only answer that’s sustainable,” even though it would likely only lead to a spike in cases.
By late May, however, as states began reopening in earnest, Graham was forced once again to raise his high-water mark — this time from 100,000 to 130,000 deaths, per Politico.
Around that time, the actual death count also surpassed the 100,000 mark, which Graham grieved as a “sad milestone” in a Facebook post.
“Our nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus and today we passed a sad milestone of 100,000 deaths. I’m convinced that if we had not engaged in aggressive mitigation practices the number would be much greater. The sacrifices we made as a nation has saved lives [sic],” he wrote.
“More than 120,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, yet Lindsey Graham continues to spin and distract from his failure to hold the federal government accountable for bungling its response,” said Zach Hudson, spokesperson for American Bridge, a PAC that supports Democratic candidates and causes. “Lindsey Graham is more concerned about booking his next television appearance than helping his constituents suffering from this pandemic,”
As of Wednesday, the U.S. has reported at least 128,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. The country appears poised to pass the 130,000 mark by week’s end.
As states rushed to reopen — a political move cheered by both Trump and Graham — the Sun Belt has experienced a massive surge in infections. On Wednesday, the U.S. daily case count topped the 50,000 mark for the first time.
Speaking to lawmakers Tuesday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, predicted that if the country doesn’t make significant corrections quickly, we can expect to see 100,000 new infections a day.
“I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country — even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well — they are vulnerable,” said Fauci.
“I made that point very clearly last week at a press conference. We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk,” he said.
‘It’s worse than ever’: White House has someone new to blame for Trump’s downward spiral
According to a report from Politico, a substantial number of Republican insiders now see no way for Donald Trump to turn around his re-election campaign before November.
With less than 100 days to go before the election and his polling numbers in free-fall, the president has been getting input from unofficial advisers like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) who have urged him to use some of the campaign tricks that served him well in 2016 -- but others close to the president say they won't work this time.
‘You don’t want to go there’: Morning Joe slaps down Trump campaign’s new attack
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," co-host Joe Scarbrough took a shot at Donald Trump's new campaign manager who made his debut on Fox News on Monday for his comments about former Vice President Joe Biden, saying he is pushing a line of attack that will blow up in his face.
During his appearance on Fox & Friends, Bill Stepien who recently took over the faltering Trump campaign, launched an attack on Biden saying you can "judge him" by the people he surrounds himself with.
After watching the clip, MSNBC host Scarborough said the campaign manager was making a big mistake.
"You just don't want to go there," the MSNBC host warned. "That was President Trump's newly promoted campaign manager making his first TV appearance yesterday, and he was talking about the people that Joe Biden surrounds himself with."
Anti-Trump Republicans take the president’s newest campaign ad and throw it back in his face
A group of anti-Trump Republicans has taken the Trump campaign's latest attack ad against former Vice President Joe Biden and turned it right on its head.
The new ad from Republican Voters Against Trump manipulates a Trump campaign ad featuring a woman holding up a series of cards that claim she's "worried" about Biden for being "weak" and "raising taxes."