Early this morning President Trump tweeted that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19.
His tweet about the diagnosis is his most-ever-liked, despite being tweeted at nearly 1 a.m.
This is clearly a very shocking development and commentators have been trying to make sense of what this means for the presidential race. Will the next presidential debate be cancelled? Will Trump benefit from some public sympathy (which Boris Johnson arguably benefitted from in the U.K. after contracting COVID-19)? Or will this shake Trump’s image and cause his supporters to rethink their position?
As the story has developed, it appears that Trump’s symptoms are ‘mild’. But even if he makes a speedy recovery, the significance of this will depend, like many other things, on what stance the President decides to make. He might decide to take COVID-19 more seriously. Or, if he does not display severe symptoms, he could suggest that this proves that the disease is not really a big deal.
If President Trump is unable to perform his duties due to the virus, his executive powers will be passed to Vice President Mike Pence. In the extremely unlikely case that Vice President Pence also contracts the virus, and cannot perform his duties as a result, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (a Democrat and staunch Trump critic) would assume power.
To his detractors, this news might seem like “karma”, similar to the come-uppance for a Disney villain. Trump has been frequently criticised for his handling of the pandemic, has claimed “it will disappear”, has refused to wear a mask for months and, just on Tuesday, mocked Joe Biden with: “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
However, if there is a lesson to draw, this news reminds us that even a polarising figure like Trump, who is a hero for some, an enemy for others, and a walking caricature for many, turns out to be something we sometimes forget about public figures – they are human.
NPN will continue to cover this story as it develops.