WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump blamed “blue states” for increasing the nation’s death rate from coronavirus, suggesting that if “you take the blue states out” of the equation the United States would be far more competitive with other countries.
Trump has long blamed Democratic leaders for a variety of ills, including “Democrat-run” cities where protests against police have occasionally turned violent. But his remarks Wednesday were his most explicit politicization yet of the handling of COVID-19.
It comes as Trump has been forced to defend metrics that indicate the U.S. has been in a worse position than many other nations dealing with the pandemic.
The president, speaking to reporters at the White House, started off arguing that the United States was handling the virus well compared to other nations “despite the fact that the blue states had tremendous death rates.
“If you take the blue states out,” he continued, “we’re at at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level but some of the states — they were blue states, and blue-state management.”
New York, California, and New Jersey – all widely considered blue states in the presidential election – were among the states with highest number of deaths from coronavirus. But they are also the states with the largest populations in the country, and they were the first to experience and tackle major outbreaks of the disease.
Other states with a high number of deaths include Texas, a red state, and Florida, a battleground. Those states are also among the nation’s most populous.
The picture is slightly different when normalized for population: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts had among the highest death rates per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University. But red states and battlegrounds, such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Michigan were also in the top ten.
Democrats slammed the president’s response, noting that blue states are part of the nation, too.
“Trump continues to politicize the coronavirus,” the Democratic National Committee tweeted. “COVID isn’t a red state or blue state issue. 9 of the 10 states with the most infections per capita have Republican governors. This virus has impacted all Americans.”
Trump did not offer specific evidence to back up his insinuation that blue states handled the virus any differently than red states, though he has had longstanding quarrels with Democratic governors such as Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California.
Minutes after suggesting Democratic-run states didn’t do enough to contain the virus, he blasted them for not lifting coronavirus restrictions more quickly.
“By the way we’d recommend they open up their states,” Trump said. “It’s hurting people far more than the disease itself.”
Analysts said there is no relationship between the spread of COVID and the political parties of state leaders, and that the president is making a false comparison.
“Trump’s a billionaire if you don’t count his debts,” tweeted commentator David Frum, author of “Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy.”