President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House after leaving the military hospital where he was receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19.
He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — and then took off his mask outside on the White House balcony.
Trump’s recovery and message caused harsh reactions on social media and in the media. In fact, some users flocked to an unlikely source to contradict the Walter Reed medical team.
Former White House aide Kellyanne Conaway’s underage daughter, Claudia.
Landing Monday night at the White House on Marine One, Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” He gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visibly milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.
The president left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said earlier Monday that the president remains contagious and would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week but that Trump had met or exceeded standards for discharge from the hospital.
Trump is expected to continue his recovery at the White House, where the reach of the outbreak that has infected the highest levels of the U.S. government is still being uncovered.
Some social media users seemed to want a different diagnosis — and latched on to a 15-year-old’s Instagram story.
Claudia Conway daughter of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, reports Trump is not doing "better" with #COVID19 despite recent Trump photo-ops and return to the White House.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) October 5, 2020
Her mother pushed back against critics —
My daughter, Claudia, is beautiful & brilliant. She has access to top doctors & health care & lives comfortably
Like all of you, she speculates on social media
Yet she’s 15
You are adults
We have COVID, but it’s clear who’s really sick
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) October 6, 2020
Still, just a month before the election and anxious to project strength, Trump tweeted before leaving the hospital, “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!” And in case anyone missed his message earlier, he also put out a new video from the White House.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” Trump said of the virus. “You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines.” His remarks were strong, but he was taking deeper breaths than usual as he delivered them.
On Tuesday, Trump went a step further, repeating his previous comparisons between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu.
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“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he tweeted. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
That’s not quite true, however. COVID-19 has proven to be a more potent killer, particularly among older populations, than seasonal flu, and has shown indications of having long-term impacts on the health of even younger people it infects.
Still, it seemed that even the mainstream media was hoping for a different recovery result for the president. CNN star Chris Cuomo called Trump’s political photo-op “bullsh*t” live on-air while discussing the event.
But Cuomo himself was criticized for breaking quarantine while infected with the coronavirus.
CNN’s @ChrisCuomo who:
– Broke Quarantine while COVID Positive
– Got into a fight with a biker without a mask
– Likely infected his family with the Virus
– Faked his emergence from his basement on air..
Is offended that President Trump took his mask off on his balcony. pic.twitter.com/qlko8ifhK0
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) October 6, 2020
On social media, the hashtag #GaspingForAir was one of the top trending topics on Twitter.
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Video of Trump during his photo-op went viral, and users claimed he was struggling to breathe.
Trump looks like he is gasping for air pic.twitter.com/4k2v4Jxlir
— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) October 5, 2020
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who spent more than 90 minutes on the debate stage with Trump last week, said during an NBC town hall Monday night that he was glad Trump seemed to be recovering well, “but there’s a lot to be concerned about — 210,000 people have died. I hope no one walks away with the message that it’s not a problem.” Biden tested negative for the virus on Sunday.
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Surprisingly, there was also pushback from a prominent Trump political supporter as well.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told The Houston Chronicle editorial board that Trump had “let his guard down” in his effort to show that the country was moving beyond the virus and had created “confusion” about how to stay safe.
Cmdr. Conley said that because of Trump’s unusual level of treatment so early after discovery of his illness he was in “uncharted territory.” But the doctor also was upbeat at an afternoon briefing and said the president could resume his normal schedule once “there is no evidence of live virus still present.”
Conley repeatedly declined to share results of medical scans of Trump’s lungs, saying he was not at liberty to discuss the information because of doctor-patient confidentiality on the subject. COVID-19 has been known to cause significant damage to the lungs of some patients.
Only a day earlier, Trump suggested he had finally grasped the true nature of the virus, saying in a video, “I get it.”
At the hospital, doctors revealed that his blood oxygen level had dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick.
Trump’s experience with the disease has been dramatically different from most Americans, who do not have access to the same kind of world-class monitoring and care. He returns to the White House, where there is a team of doctors on call with 24-hour monitoring.
Trump was leaving the hospital after receiving a fourth dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir Monday evening, Conley said. He will receive the fifth and final dose Tuesday at the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence returned to the campaign trail moments after Trump announced he would soon leave the hospital. The vice president boarded Air Force Two to fly to Salt Lake City, where he is to face off against Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
Trump, in his new video, defended his decisions “I stood out front. I led,” the president said. “Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did.”
He added: “And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger. But that’s OK. And now I’m better. And maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.”
Trump’s aggressive course of treatment included the steroid dexamethasone and the single dose he was given Friday of an experimental drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that supplies antibodies to help the immune system fight the virus.
Trump on Friday also began a five-day course of remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug currently used for moderately and severely ill patients. The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus, and remdesivir curbs the virus’s ability to multiply.
The Associated Press contributed to this article