Trump's America

“You Can’t Do That”: Trump Fact-Checked on COVID-19 Death Stats During Tense Interview

President Trump shuffled through papers and stumbled on words as a reporter corrected his outlandish claims about the coronavirus.

President Trump being interviewed by national Axios reporter Jonathan Swan | Youtube / HBO
President Trump being interviewed by national Axios reporter Jonathan Swan | Youtube / HBO

President Trump white-knuckled his way through a rambling interview while being fact-checked by a reporter on his false and outlandish claims about the U.S. response to COVID-19. 

During the nearly 40-minute sit-down interview, which took place July 28 and was aired Monday by HBO’s “Axios on HBO,” Trump claimed that COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were the "lowest in the world," which national Axios reporter Jonathan Swan swiftly fact-checked. 

Trump shuffled through several papers that displayed virus-related statistics and said that U.S. cases were “lower than the world, we’re lower than Europe.” According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the confirmed cases in the U.S. far exceed other countries’ reported case numbers. The U.S. has more than 4.7 million COVID-19 cases, including over 155,000 deaths. 

Swan pushed back on Trump's methodology and examined the papers himself, saying, “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.” 

Visibly flustered, Trump responded, “You can’t do that.” Swan asked, “Why can’t I do that?” 

When presented with other countries’ death numbers, Trump repeatedly replied, "You don't know that." 

Trump also repeated his unfounded assertion that the U.S. has the highest number of cases because it tests more than other other countries. 

“You take the number of cases, look, we’re last, meaning we’re first,” Trump said.

"Last? I don’t know what we’re first in, as a what?” Swan said. “A thousand Americans are dying a day, but I understand on cases, it’s different.”

"No but you're not reporting it correctly, Jonathan,” and Swan told him, “I think I am.”

“If hospital rates were going down and deaths were going down, I’d say terrific, you deserve to be praised for testing, but they’re all going up,” Swan pushed back. 

Trump went on to say, “You know, there are those that say you can test too much. You do know that.”When pressed on who specifically says that, Trump said, “Oh, just read the manuals. Read the books.”

“If hospital rates were going down and deaths were going down, I’d say terrific, you deserve to be praised for testing, but they’re all going up,” Swan pushed back. 

Trump went on to say, “You know, there are those that say you can test too much. You do know that.”When pressed on who specifically says that, Trump said, “Oh, just read the manuals. Read the books.”

During the interview, Trump also refused to acknowledge the late Rep. John Lewis’s impactful civil rights legacy and instead fixated on the fact that Lewis didn’t attend his inauguration. 

When Swan asked how history would remember Lewis, Trump said, “I don’t know, I really don’t know,” and pointed out multiple times that Lewis "chose not to come to my inauguration" and that they never met. When asked if he thought Lewis was impressive, Trump said "I can't say one way or the other" and “I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive." 

The president also said, “Nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have,” and Lewis “made a big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.  

He also continued his tirade against mail-in voting, which he has claimed could more easily lead to fraud, despite plenty of contradictory evidence

"So they're going to send tens of millions of ballots to California, all over the place. Who's gonna get 'em?" he asked in the interview. "Somebody got a ballot for a dog. Somebody got a ballot for something else. You got millions of ballots going. Nobody even knows where they're going."

Swan responded by pointing out that people must apply for mail-in ballots before they can receive them and that Trump’s own party has a well-funded vote-by-mail program which his campaign has encouraged people to use.