On a day when the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000, President Trump sought to direct the nation’s attention back to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic as a way to smear the reputation of his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who was vice president at the time.
Joe Biden’s handling of the H1N1 Swine Flu was a complete and total disaster. Even polls on the matter were terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
In the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Trump repeatedly sought to show that he was doing a good job dealing with the pandemic compared with how Biden and then-President Barack Obama had responded to the H1N1 pandemic.
Sleepy Joe Biden was in charge of the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic which killed thousands of people. The response was one of the worst on record. Our response is one of the best, with fast action of border closings & a 78% Approval Rating, the highest on record. His was lowest!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
Three days after his March 12 tweet, when just 676 Americans had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Trump told his Twitter followers that 17,000 Americans had been killed (estimates range between 8,300 deaths and 18,300).
“Just look at the catastrophe of the H1N1 Swine Flu (Biden in charge, 17,000 people lost, very late response time),” Trump wrote.
By April 17, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 stood at 30,915, but that didn’t stop Trump from drawing a comparison with how “Biden/Obama” handled the earlier epidemic.
Biden/Obama were a disaster in handling the H1N1 Swine Flu. Polling at the time showed disastrous approval numbers. 17,000 people died unnecessarily and through incompetence! Also, don’t forget their 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare website that should have cost close to nothing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
Unlike Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump put in charge of leading the government’s response on the coronavirus pandemic, Biden played a less visible role during the Obama administration’s H1N1 effort.
Still, that hasn’t stopped Biden and Obama from touting the former vice president’s experience in dealing with a public health crisis.
“Joe helped me manage H1N1 and prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we’re seeing now,” Obama said when he endorsed Biden for president on April 14.
Direct comparisons between the two diseases are difficult to make. H1N1 infected 60 million people in the U.S. So far, 1.6 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, indicating a much higher death rate. Trump has remained fixated on comparing the respective death tolls, and on claims about his popularity.
While it’s unclear where Trump derives his figures when he asserts that he received a “78% Approval Rating” for his handling of the pandemic, a Gallup daily tracking poll taken in February found that 77 percent of Americans had confidence in the government’s ability to handle the outbreak. Yet that poll was conducted when the number of U.S. deaths could be counted on one hand.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll released last week found that 39 percent of Americans approved of the way Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus pandemic, while 60 percent said they disapprove.
A Gallup poll taken during the early days of the H1N1 outbreak found that 66 percent of Americans approved of the way the Obama administration had handled it.
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