President Trump in recent weeks has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy and the rekindling of an economy that has been devastated by public health restrictions aimed at mitigating the outbreak.
His administration has sidelined or replaced officials not seen as loyal, rebuffed congressional requests for testimony, dismissed jarring statistics and models, praised states for reopening without meeting White House guidelines and, briefly, pushed to disband a task force created to combat the virus and communicate about the public health crisis.
Several Republican governors are following Trump’s lead as an effort takes shape to control the narrative about a pandemic that has continued to rage throughout a quickly reopening country. With polls showing most consumers still afraid to venture out of their homes, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to soothe some of those fears through a messaging campaign that relies on tightly controlling information about a virus that has proven stubbornly difficult to contain.
“If the message were to go out with complete objectivity, it would be disastrous for Trump,” said Max Skidmore, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and the author of a book on presidential responses to pandemics. “So he is doing his best to prevent experts from speaking out or using their expertise, and he’s simply trying to divert attention.”