Trump downplays virus deaths, says US doing well ‘in numerous categories’

Trump downplays virus deaths, says US doing well ‘in numerous categories’

US president also suggests Jeffrey Epstein may have been murdered in jail, dismisses John Lewis’s life accomplishments during Axios interview

In an interview aired Tuesday, US President Donald Trump insisted the coronavirus death rate in the United States was not the highest globally, suggested convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein may have been murdered in jail, and dismissed civil rights icon John Lewis’s life achievements.

The US has been the worst hit country in the world by the virus, with 155,471 deaths from 4,717,716 cases. But Trump has consistently explained away the statistics as a product of increased testing and the White House has put out numbers attempting to show the US performing better than other countries on a per-capita basis.

“In numerous categories, we’re lower than the world, lower than Europe,” said Trump, holding up a printed chart on virus rates, in the Axios interview which aired late Monday.

“You’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad, much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.” replied interviewer Jonathan Swan.

“You can’t do that,” retorted Trump, insisting Swan was misreporting how the US was faring in the pandemic.

He also claimed that “there are those that say you can test too much,” citing unspecified books and manuals.

The pandemic has killed at least 690,363 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, with more than 18 million people infected.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 94,665 deaths from 2,750,318 cases, Mexico with 48,012 deaths from 443,813 cases, Britain with 46,210 deaths from 305,623 cases, and India with 38,938 deaths from 1,855,745 cases.

Medical workers take in patients outside a special coronavirus area at Maimonides Medical Center on May 13, 2020 in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Britain with 68, Spain 61, Peru 60, and Italy 58.

During the interview, Trump again extended well wishes to Jeffrey Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who is under arrest over alleged child sex trafficking. He also cast doubt on Epstein’s cause of death, peddling conspiracy theories the financier was murdered.

“Her friend or her boyfriend was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She’s now in jail. Yeah, I wish her well, I’d wish you well, I’d wish a lot of people well. Good luck. Let them prove somebody was guilty,” said Trump.

“Her boyfriend died in jail and people are still trying to figure out how did it happen? Was it suicide? Was he killed? And I do wish her well,” said the US president.

Trump also said he doesn’t know how history will remember civil rights activist John Lewis, but that “he chose not to come to my inauguration.”

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. , Sunday, July 19, 2020, in Atlanta. Lewis, who died Friday at age 80, was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and spoke shortly before the group’s leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to a vast sea of people. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

A longtime Democratic congressman, Lewis died on July 17, then received rare honors in Washington and was praised by key figures of both major parties for his lifelong fight for equality.

“How do you think history will remember John Lewis?” Jonathan Swan of the Axios media outlet asked Trump in the interview aired on Monday.

“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” the US president answered.

“I don’t know John Lewis, he chose not to come to my inauguration.”

Lewis clashed with Trump on multiple occasions — as well as boycotting his swearing-in ceremony, Lewis cited Russian interference in the 2016 election to question his legitimacy and warned US democracy was under threat.

In the interview, which was recorded last week, Swan rephrased the question: “Do you find him impressive?”

“I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive, I find a lot of people not impressive.”

Family members embrace at the graveside service for U.S. Rep. John Lewis (Democrat of Georgia) at South-View Cemetery on July 30, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

“He didn’t come to my inauguration, he didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches — and that’s ok, that’s his right.”

His comments come after the death of George Floyd triggered nationwide protests and a national debate on race, which has received added impetus in the run-up to November’s presidential election.

Trump said in the interview that “no one has done more for Black Americans than I have.”

Swan asked again: “Taking your relationship with him out of it, do you find his story impressive, what he’s done for this country?

“He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others also,” Trump said.

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