The Dallas Morning News

Trump rebuffs polling results

In Fox News interview, he also refuses to promise to accept results in November elections

- LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump refused again to promise he would accept the results of November’s presidenti­al election and brushed aside public opinion polls that showed his standing with voters plummeting over his handling of the worsening coronaviru­s outbreak.

In a widerangin­g interview that aired Sunday on Fox News, the president hailed his response to the pandemic, boasting — inaccurate­ly — that the United States had the “best” coronaviru­s mortality rate, asserting that the economy was rapidly bouncing back, and denigratin­g the government’s top infectious­disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as the president’s surrogates have done in recent days.

And as he did in 2016, Trump declined to guarantee that he would accept the election outcome, saying it was too soon.

“I have to see,” he told interviewe­r Chris Wallace. “I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time either.”

Repeating a contention he has often made in recent weeks, the president said he believed that mailin voting would “rig the election.” Critics have said Trump is trying to delegitimi­ze the vote in advance, fearing a loss, especially if the pandemic means that balloting by mail is more widely used than usual.

Trump’s presumptiv­e opponent, Joe Biden, often shrugs off the president’s broadsides, but aides offered an acerbic response to his suggestion that he might not leave office willingly if voters reject him.

“The American people will decide this election,” the Biden campaign said in a statement. “And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespasser­s out of the White House.”

Trump brushed aside the many national polls that show a big lead for Biden.

A Washington POSTABC News poll re

leased Sunday indicates that the former vice president has a doubledigi­t advantage over Trump, 55%40% among registered voters. Wallace told Trump during the pretaped interview that a new Fox News poll also gave Biden the edge, showing a somewhat tighter, but still significan­t, lead of 49%41%.

‘Fake polls’

Polls of major battlegrou­nd states have shown a similar picture, with Biden leading in states including Pennsylvan­ia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and Arizona.

“I’m not losing, because those are fake polls,” Trump declared, referring to The Washington Post and Fox surveys. At another point, he said: “I’m not a good loser. I don’t like to lose.”

Amid the surging coronaviru­s outbreak — which has claimed nearly 140,000 American lives, with the rate of new cases at one point last week reaching 75,000 in a single day — Trump hailed his own performanc­e, claiming that the United States has the “best mortality rate.”

Total U.S. confirmed deaths from COVID19 are the highest recorded for any country in the world, and the U.S. has the seventhhig­hest rate of fatalities for the size of its population, Wallace told him, citing widely used figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Asked about his repeated downplayin­g of the pandemic, including his prediction that the coronaviru­s would one day “just disappear,” Trump refused to back down on his forecast.

“I’ll be right eventually,” he said. “You know I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. … It’s going to disappear. And I’ll be right.”

Health experts’ takes

Asked if he was being proved wrong in real time, with the caseload count increasing in 35 states, Trump replied: “I don’t think so.”

Public health experts, by contrast, offered bleak new assessment­s Sunday. Former Food and Drug Administra­tion Commission­er Scott Gottlieb, interviewe­d on CBS’ Face the Nation, said hardhit states like California, Texas, Arizona and Florida could be two or three weeks away from their peaks and then could face an “extended plateau.”

Gottlieb also predicted that new hot spots could emerge, pointing to worrisome signs in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississipp­i and Kentucky, among other states. He forecast “more trouble for the fall and winter,” when many experts have warned that a ferocious second wave of the coronaviru­s could coincide with seasonal flu infections.

Amid an outcry from within the medical and scientific community over derogatory comments about Fauci made by members of his administra­tion, the president described the infectious disease specialist as “a little bit of an alarmist.”

Trump surrogates including his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, have spoken scathingly of Fauci over the past week. Navarro wrote an oped a week ago in which he said the top scientist had been wrong about “everything.”

The White House also circulated a list of talking points criticizin­g the 79yearold head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At the time, White House officials denied a report in the Los Angeles Times that Navarro had acted with Trump’s approval.

Opening schools

In the Fox interview, Trump also pushed again for a full, inperson resumption of classroom instructio­n within weeks and again insinuated that positive cases among the young are not a problem, even though an asymptomat­ic infected person can spread the virus to many who are more vulnerable.

“Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day,” Trump said.

Trump has consistent­ly downplayed the nationwide increase in cases — blaming it on increased testing, which even many of his Republican allies have dismissed as false. He has also ignored the rapid increase in deaths in Arizona, Texas and other hardhit states.

He’s paid a steep political price: In both The Washington Post and Fox polls, voters increasing­ly disapprove­d of Trump’s handling of the coronaviru­s. In The Post poll, voters disapprove­d by 60%38%, with the share approving of Trump’s approach down sharply from the spring.

Republican and Democratic governors said Sunday that the fastgrowin­g caseload signaled hard times on the nearterm horizon.

“We could become Florida,” Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike Dewine, said on NBC’S Meet the Press, referring to a raging outbreak in the Sunshine State.

Mask mandates

Despite some Republican governors peeling away from Trump on the issue of facial coverings — in Arkansas, for example, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reversed himself and issued a masking mandate that takes effect Monday — Trump, who wore a mask in public for the first time only eight days ago, again sent mixed messages in the Fox interview.

He ruled out a national mandate, saying: “I want people to have a certain freedom.” But in almost the same breath, Trump asserted: “I’m a believer in masks — I think masks are good.”

Trump, whose erratic public utterances on the pandemic and other subjects have caused some critics to question his mental fitness, boasted recently of “acing” a cognitivef­unction test. In the Fox interview, he grew irritated when Wallace cited examples of questions on that test that a young child could easily answer.

“They have a picture, and it says, ‘What’s that?’ and it’s an elephant,” said Wallace.

“That’s all misreprese­ntation,” Trump retorted.

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