Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, falsely claimed that “people don’t die of [COVID-19] anymore” while standing in a cramped room of Trump supporters in Philadelphia on Monday.
The former New York City mayor was attending a Columbus Day gathering of Italian Americans for Trump and speaking without wearing a mask when he made the egregious comment.
“People don’t die of this disease anymore,” he said to the nodding of heads and verbal agreement in the audience. “Young people don’t die at all. Middle-aged people die very little. And even elderly people have a 1% chance of dying.”
In just the last seven days, more than 4,886 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S., 141 of them in Pennsylvania, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 214,000 people have died in the U.S. since late January.
At least 121 people younger than age 21 died from the virus in the U.S. between February and July, the CDC reports.
In addition to hosting speakers who contradicted the CDC’s findings, the Trump campaign event also appeared to ignore the CDC’s safety guidelines to prevent the virus’ spread — precautions such as wearing face masks, maintaining a distance of six feet from other people, and holding outdoor social gatherings whenever possible. The event was held indoors without proper distancing.
Giuliani criticized Democrats for supporting such guidelines and suggested they were targeting “things they don’t like,” specifying churches as one example, according to CBS Philadelphia.
Prior to the indoor campaign event, Giuliani had spoken to a crowd of about 200 people on a sidewalk south of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. There, he accused Democrats of exaggerating the severity of the pandemic, Citizens Voice reported.
“Sleepy Joe wears his mask like this,” Giuliani said, referring to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden while reportedly putting his hand over his eyes. “So tell me, who is he going to infect? The teleprompter in front of him. It’s not science. It’s political bullshit. It’s worse than that. It’s intended to scare people. Do you think our schools have to be closed?”
With less than a month before the Nov. 3 election, and Trump trailing Biden in the polls, the Trump campaign appears to be not just blurring facts and safety measures but crossing ethical lines.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who warned this week that the U.S. is “facing a whole lot of trouble” ahead of an anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall, criticized Trump’s campaign this week for running a political ad that falsely suggested Fauci endorsed the president.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that. It’s so clear that I’m not a political person, and I have never ― either directly or indirectly ― endorsed a political candidate,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And to take a completely out-of-context statement and put in what is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.”
Similarly, another Trump campaign ad targeting mail-in-voters featured a photo of Trump with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even though the Defense Department forbids service members from participating in campaign activities or materials in uniform.
Esper reminded his staff of this rule in a memo back in February.
“As citizens, we exercise our right to vote and participate in government,” he wrote. “However, as public servants who have taken an oath to defend these principles, we uphold DoD’s longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical as we carry out our official responsibilities.”
A defense official told Politico that the Trump campaign did not seek approval from Milley before using his image in the ad.
“This photo, like many others, was not used with [Milley’s] knowledge or consent,” said the official, who requested anonymity to speak about a sensitive topic.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the new number of COVID-19 cases within the last seven days.
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