I rise in defense of Trump. Not Donald, exactly, but son Eric Trump. I rise to defend him against a small slander by Slate magazine that misrepresented – intentionally or un- — what I believe Eric Trump was trying to say when he said that Democrats are reveling in the coronavirus pandemic and are especially thrilled that it prevents Donald Sr. from holding rallies.
What E. Trump said was ridiculous enough. More on that below. But it was a fair bit less ridiculous than the Slate headline suggested. The headline: “Eric Trump: Coronavirus Shutdowns Are Democratic Plot to Stop Father From Holding Rallies”
Such a statement would be so absurd that not even Eric Trump would say it. And he didn’t.
I defend him not out of solidarity with the Trump son (and notwithstanding the excellence of his first name) but because, in pointing out the absurdity of things that come out of the various Trumpian mouths, it’s important to police one’s own credibility.
E. Trump did indeed complain bitterly that the COVID outbreak is interfering with D. Trump’s ability to hold rallies. (That, of course, is true, and while deeply tragic, possibly not the most horrible consequence of the pandemic.) And E. Trump did say that Democrats were loving this fact. (No evidence was given, but it’s perhaps not the craziest guess that Democrats like the world a bit better with fewer Trump rallies in it.)
I’ll give you the full quote below, which is quite clear in the Slate piece. And what E. Trump said is indeed ridiculous and mockable. But he did not go quite so far as the headline above suggests. He did not suggest that Democrats created coronavirus for political gain, nor is it reasonable to suggest that the Democrats, who currently control one half of one of the three branches of the federal government, have the ability to stop D. Trump from holding rallies in places other than the floor of the U.S. House. So the headline “Eric Trump: Coronavirus Shutdowns Are Democratic Plot to Stop Father From Holding Rallies” is a serious overstretch. And those of us who believe in accuracy should police inaccuracy on all sides.
It is true, as E. Trump suggests, that the various measures taken to combat the coronavirus have prevented D. Trump from holding rallies. It is true that D. Trump loves himself some rallies at a level that borders on creepy and is sadly reminiscent of certain long-ago German and Italian dictators’ rallies.
I’m sure the COVID-induced prevention of rallies is sad for D. Trump, and E. Trump too, and many Trump admirers, among whom I do not number myself. And perhaps it’s not unreasonable to speculate that some Democrats are enjoying the spectacle of D. Trump being sad because of the current no-rallies crisis.
But that’s a couple of logical steps short of what the Slate headline writer wrote, which is that E. Trump suggested Democrats had somehow “plotted” coronavirus shutdowns for this purpose. Nor does the article say so. Nor does it quote E. Trump or anyone else saying so. The headline says so. And it is wrong and I am standing up for accuracy in headlines. Just the headline. The article, so far as I can tell, was accurate.
Here’s what E. Trump actually said, as quoted in the article:
“Listen, Biden loves this. Biden can’t go onstage without making some horrible blunder. I mean even from his basement, he’s making awful gaffes every single day. So, his campaign is thrilled that he’s not going out there,” Eric Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. “They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time.”
I assume E. Trump said exactly that on the Pirro show. But, other than the suggestion that “Biden loves this,” meaning Biden is enjoying the pandemic because he thinks it’s good for his chances of winning the election, which is unlikely, unknowable and an obnoxious thing to say, but it’s not the same as saying that Biden and or Democrats either caused the epidemic or are glad it’s happening, which is pretty much what the headline says E. Trump said.
D. Trump is not a real stickler for factual accuracy, you may have noticed, and perhaps E. Trump isn’t either, but the Slate headline writer should be.
Here’s the other thing from E. Trump’s statements, as relayed by Slate, which may have inspired the headline writer, but still caused him or her to go well beyond the bizarre assertion in the headline:
“With a heavy hint of a conspiracy, Eric Trump said Democrats were ‘trying to deprive’ his father of ‘his greatest asset, which is the fact that the American people love him, the fact that he’s relatable, and the fact that he can go out there and draw massive crowds.’ While Biden ‘can’t get 10 people in a room’ Trump is ‘getting 50,000 in a room.’”
Eric Trump went on to describe that effort as a “very cognizant strategy” that many Democrats are carrying out.
I don’t claim to know what “very cognizant strategy” might mean. We could speculate, but strategies do not cogitate. I don’t claim Eric Trump could straighten out what he means in a way that would make sense, but a generous reading would be that he thinks Democrats benefit from Trump going without his rallies and are doing what they can to milk that advantage, although I can’t complete that thought in a way that would make sense.
And I don’t know exactly why I’m making such a big deal about this, but it doesn’t mean, and it can’t mean, what the headline suggested.
When I saw the headline: I said, “Oh my God, could even Eric Trump have really said that?” And, apparently, he didn’t, although what he did say, which I assume was accurately reflected in the article, was plenty and paranoid enough without needing to be exaggerated.