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With an estimated 220,000 Americans as of this writing dead from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, readers asked whether it’s true that U.S. President Donald Trump had mocked his 2020 Democratic opponent Joe Biden for vowing to “listen to the scientists” on how to manage the public health crisis.
The statement was made by Trump during a campaign rally in Nevada on Oct. 18, 2020. It drew widespread scrutiny as the Trump administration, and Trump himself, have been criticized for failing to follow the guidance of scientists and experts when responding to the pandemic.
During the rally, Trump said (emphasis added):
“If you vote for Biden, he will surrender your jobs to China. He will surrender your future to the virus. He’s going to lockdown. This guy wants a lockdown. He’ll listen to the scientists. If I listen totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression instead of, we’re like a rocket ship, take a look at the numbers.”
Trump appeared to be riffing on a comment made by Biden during an August 2020 interview with ABC News journalist David Muir. During the interview, Muir asked Biden how he would respond if he won the November 2020 election and was sworn in amid surging coronavirus cases, coupled with flu season.
Biden said, “I will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus. That is the fundamental flaw of this administration’s thinking to begin with. In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus, you have to deal with the virus.”
Muir asked, “So if the scientists say shut it down?”
Biden answered, “I would shut it down, I would listen to the scientists.”
Video of Trump’s comments in Nevada can be viewed here: