10:49 GMT21 September 2020
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    In an interview with Axios that aired Monday on HBO, US President Donald Trump made several false claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic as he scrambled to appeal to his base, Max Blumenthal, a bestselling author and journalist whose latest film is “Killing Gaza,” told Sputnik on Tuesday.

    At one point in the interview with Jonathan Swan, Trump pulled out his own printouts of COVID-19 data as evidence that the US supposedly is the “lowest” in “numerous categories” related to the pandemic, such as case fatality rate. When Swan explained that he was referring to the US death rate per capita, which ranks seventh in the world according to data from Johns Hopkins University, Trump responded: “You can’t do that.”

    “In this case, he has the wrong chart brought to him, which shows the amount of deaths per proportion of infections, not for the whole population, and then he says, ‘Well, you can’t do that. You can’t count deaths for the whole population.’ But if you have more infections than any other country, even if the proportion of deaths is lower than South Korea, for example, you’re going to have way more deaths, because you’re being irresponsible,” Blumenthal, the senior editor of The Grayzone and co-host of the Moderate Rebels podcast, told Loud & Clear host John Kiriakou. 

    ​“And the irresponsibility derives from the fact that the red state governors reopened too early, or in the case of [Governor] Brian Kemp in Georgia, they didn’t want to pay unemployment, so they were just like, ‘Screw it, let’s just open everything up. Let everybody die.’ And that’s what proceeded to happen,” he said.

    Also during the interview, Trump once again claimed that “because we’ve [the US] done more tests, we have more cases.” However, the actual number of infections in the US is independent of testing, and according to Blumenthal, it might not even be the case that the US is testing more than other countries.

    “I don’t even know if that’s true, because if you know anyone who’s taken the free tests that are coming out, sometimes the results just never arrive. I know people who haven’t been able to go back to work because it took two weeks for the test to arrive. So, they went to a private clinic, paid to get a test with the results the same day. But, it’s unclear what kind of tests are being used, how reliable they are. It took a long time for the reliability to improve. The antibodies test that first rolled out only had, like, 50% reliability according to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Blumenthal noted.

    “But the reality is, Trump isn’t accounting for the total population of the US versus other countries, so the US may have conducted more tests, but not for the percentage of population as countries like Germany or South Korea or Vietnam - or Cuba, which has fully contained the virus under crushing US sanctions. So the whole logic that Trump is deploying is absolutely ridiculous. And the way that he’s speaking - he only knows how to speak to his base, so all of his talking points are just designed for his base, which is narrowing out as Election Day approaches,” Blumenthal added. 

    Last month, US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that schools should fully reopen in the fall, a position that has Trump’s full support, and threatened to cut funding to schools that don’t reopen. However, despite the push to reopen schools amid the pandemic, the Trump administration has failed to provide information on how to do so safely.

    The journalist told Sputnik Trump shows the same attitude in both the question of schools and of the anti-racist protests in Portland, Oregon, and other cities, “where Trump is using federal authority to override the authority of Democratic mayors and local authorities in order to embarrass them.”

    “It’s an election stunt. It’s a campaign stunt, and what he’s attempting to do with schools, as he did in Portland for example, where he tried to pit local residents who feel like they are under siege by Antifa against the Democratic mayor - which completely backfired - is he’s trying to pit parents against teachers’ unions,” Blumenthal said. 

    The problem with that strategy is that parents don’t seem to want to send their children back to school, Blumenthal said, adding that “no parent I know wants their kid to go to school.” 

    “There’s no way to enforce masks or social distancing. It’s going to be a disaster. So you have Betsy DeVos, who basically has been the face and voice of education privatization, using her family’s money to destroy public schools for decades, who has been the biggest advocate for local control and things like parents’ rights, suddenly becoming the face and voice of the ‘nanny state’ or an authoritarian federal government, which is seeking to force local schools to reopen under threat of defunding them,” he said.

    “And I don’t even know how the federal government gets the authority to defund schools, which are funded through Congress. And even conservative education reform or privatization groups are now criticizing DeVos and calling her a hypocrite for this. And this is all because she has become prisoner to a campaign stunt by Trump,” Blumenthal added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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