Trump and Biden’s Responses to the 100,000 Death Milestone Could Not Have Been More Different

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By Keya Vakil

May 28, 2020

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was quick to share a heartfelt video expressing his grief at the tragedy and passing along condolences to families who had lost loved ones.

When the United States passed 100,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, the two candidates running for president had distinctly different responses. 

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was quick to share a heartfelt video expressing his grief at the tragedy and passing along condolences to families who had lost loved ones.

“To all of you who are hurting so badly, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Biden said. “God bless each and every one of you and the blessed memory of the one you lost. This nation grieves with you. Take some solace from the fact we all grieve with you.”

President Trump, meanwhile, spent the day:

  • basking in praise from conservative media personalities
  • accusing social media platforms like Twitter of censorship because they fact-checked his lies
  • repeating his lies that vote-by-mail is a “scam” (it’s not, and Republicans have encouraged it for years)
  • mocking Joe Biden’s effort to wear a face mask, even though health experts view it as one of the most important steps you can take to protect against COVID-19
  • retweeting unfounded conspiracy theories
  • and sharing a video that begins with a man saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

On Thursday morning, Trump once again took to social media to promote multiple conspiracy theories, calling into question the necessity of face masks, and criticizing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her stay-at-home order (which has broad support and has proven effective). 

By the time Trump finally acknowledged 100,000 Americans who lost their lives because of coronavirus, more than 15 hours had passed. In a mid-morning tweet, the president noted that the nation had “just reached a very sad milestone” and attempted to extend his “heartfelt sympathy & love” to the families and friends who lost loved ones. 

Trump, who has never been one for public displays of comfort, compassion, or reassurance, has received criticism for his slow and muted response to Wednesday’s milestone.

“You would think a normal human being endowed with normal amounts of decency and empathy would take a moment when 100,000 people who are the citizens of the country of which he is president have died,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told the Washington Post. “But that is not something that has crossed Trump’s mind, as far as I can tell.”

“Where is the expression of sorrow that we all feel?” wondered Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth religion professor whose teachings focus on American religion and the presidency. “No one is articulating that for the nation. Other presidents have simply understood that as part of their job.”

RELATED: The U.S. Has Officially Passed 100,000 Deaths From Coronavirus. The Real Number Is Likely Much Higher.

Biden tried to fill that void on Wednesday, drawing on his own past losses to express sorrow and provide comfort to those who’ve lost family members and friends. 

“I think I know what you’re feeling. You feel like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. It’s suffocating. Your heart is broken, and there’s nothing but a feeling of emptiness right now,” Biden said in his video. “I know there’s nothing I or anyone else can say or do to dull the sharpness of the pain you feel right now, but I can promise you from experience, the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.”

Biden’s focus of collective grief underscores his own tragic history. He lost his first wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi in a car accident in 1972, and lost his son, Beau, to brian cancer in 2015. 

It remains to be seen if Trump addresses the milestone in a more personal manner, or if he attempts to blow past it. At the moment, the latter appears to be most likely. Trump’s public schedule for the week does not currently contain any special commemoration, moment of silence, or collective expression of grief to remember the 100,000 Americans who’ve lost their lives.

Instead, as Americans continued to die from COVID-19 on Thursday, Trump resumed his Twitter tirade, calling the Mueller investigation the “Greatest Political Crime in the History of the U.S.”




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