Now that he has contracted COVID-19, President Donald Trump says he does “get it.” That revelation, seven months into the pandemic and after almost 210,000 American deaths, is not the first time he has relied on personal experience to shape his views.
He said he now “understands” the virus. But because of his own experience, as a patient at one of the nation's finest medical facilities with treatment options available to very few, the president also reinforced that he has struggled to relate with everyday Americans, millions of whom have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
Instead, as he has in relationships with other countries, he has prioritized his own personal experience over that of experts. He has been reluctant, for instance, to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin over interference in American elections in the face of clear evidence from the U.S. intelligence community that it has occurred.
He has also drawn frequently on his experience with the business world or his own family to set the White House agenda. He cited his business acumen as helping him land a deal for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and he said he understands the airline industry because of his time running the failed Trump Shuttle.
Despite months of briefings from the nation's leading infectious disease experts, it was the onset of his own symptoms, as he was brought low by a lethal virus, that he said gave him a greater understanding.
That understanding, however, seemed very much in conflict with expert public health guidance about how the virus behaves and the precautions that people infected, particularly those in a higher risk group like the president, need to take.
“It’s been a very interesting journey," Trump said in a video released Sunday night. "I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. And I get it, and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing, and I’m going to be letting you know about it.”
But it soon became clear that he did not, in fact, get it.