Former President Obama on Tuesday blasted President Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, mocking Trump’s concern over the media coverage of the virus and expressing disbelief that the White House is grappling with its second outbreak.
Obama made his second stop in recent days in Florida in an attempt to deliver the swing state for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The Biden campaign has made Trump’s management of the public health crisis a centerpiece of his campaign, and Obama unleashed on the president at a drive-in rally in Orlando.
“What’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on COVID,” Obama said, referencing what has become a staple of Trump’s rallies and Twitter feed.
“He said this at one of his rallies. ‘COVID, COVID, COVID,’ he’s complaining,” Obama said. “He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage.”
“If we were focused on Covid now, the White House wouldn’t be having its second outbreak in a month,” Barack Obama says to Orlando voters, adding that President Trump has “turned the White House into a hot zone” pic.twitter.com/R3RABEi9WB
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 27, 2020
Trump has, indeed, increasingly complained that the media is spending too much time covering the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 people in America this year.
“Until November 4th., Fake News Media is going full on Covid, Covid, Covid,” Trump tweeted earlier Tuesday.
Cases have been surging across the country in recent weeks, with hospitals in Wisconsin, Utah, Texas and elsewhere nearing capacity. The U.S. over the weekend set a new record for seven-day average of cases reported, a dire indicator that the pandemic is worsening.
The virus has hit home for the Trump administration, as multiple aides to Vice President Pence have tested positive in recent days. The outbreak comes just weeks after President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and several top White House aides contracted the virus.
“Let me say this: I lived in the White House for awhile,” Obama said in Florida. “You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except, this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone.”
Obama also seized on comments from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who on Sunday conceded that the administration will not be able to control the pandemic, but should instead focus on developing vaccines and treatments.
“Listen, winter is coming,” Obama said. “They’re waving the white flag of surrender. Florida, we can’t afford four more years of this.”
Florida is emerging as a key battleground in this year’s election. The state is seen as a must-win for Trump, who won it in 2016. But polls show a tight race, with a RealClearPolitics average of polls showing Biden leading by roughly 1 percentage point.
Obama warned against voter apathy in his remarks, repeating the refrain “don’t boo, vote” over and over as rally attendees jeered Trump.
The former president has unleashed on his successor in speeches on the campaign trail, arguing Trump is unfit for the presidency. Obama, who remains a popular figure in the Democratic Party, has held events in Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando thus far.
His return to the trail has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who mockingly refers to Obama by his full name of “Barack Hussein Obama” at campaign rallies. The president took particular exception to Tuesday’s speech, reacting to it in real time and bashing Fox News for airing it.
“Now @FoxNews is playing Obama’s no crowd, fake speech for Biden, a man he could barely endorse because he couldn’t believe he won,” Trump tweeted. Also, I PREPAID many Millions of Dollars in Taxes.”