Donald Trump
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As if medical professionals dealing with COVID-19 weren’t already facing enough stress, Ben Collins wrote about what they face once they get home. Here’s one example.

At the end of another long shift treating coronavirus patients, Dr. Hadi Halazun opened his Facebook page to find a man insisting to him that “no one’s dying” and that the coronavirus is “fake news” drummed up by the news media.

Hadi tried to engage and explain his firsthand experience with the virus. In reply, another user insinuated that he wasn’t a real doctor, saying pictures from his profile showing him at concerts and music festivals proved it.

“I told them: ‘I am a real doctor. There are 200 people in my hospital’s ICU,’” said Halazun, a cardiologist in New York. “And they said, ‘Give me your credentials.’ I engaged with them, and they kicked me off their wall.”

“I left work and I felt so deflated. I let it get to me.”

Collins focused on what these medical professionals face during their interactions on social media, and as he notes, most of them are simply choosing to avoid logging onto sites like Facebook. But one of the examples Collins used was about a young patient who came into the emergency room with damage to his intestinal tract after having ingested bleach. As we all know, it was the president who sparked interest in that dangerous nonsense.

The truth is that people have been spreading ignorant conspiracy theories on social media for years now. What has helped them spread is having a president who reinforces them. What we’ve seen develop over the last few years is a feedback loop where right-wing news outlets both feed conspiracy theories to the president and amplify his voice in spreading them. That is exactly what is happening in this story being reported by Jonathan Swan and Sam Baker.

President Trump has complained to advisers about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower — and a number of his senior aides share this view, according to sources with direct knowledge.

What’s next: A senior administration official said he expects the president to begin publicly questioning the death toll as it closes in on his predictions for the final death count and damages him politically.

That is a conspiracy theory that has been traveling around right-wing media for over a month now. As Swan and Baker point out, it goes hand-in-hand with one about hospitals ramping up the death toll because they get more money for treating COVID-19 patients. Trump enabler Candace Owens recently tweeted a summary, suggesting that these conspiracy theories have now been verified.

As a fact-check, Swan and Baker note that “Medicare is giving hospitals a 20% bonus for their treatment of coronavirus patients as a way to help them make up for the money they’re losing because they’ve had to postpone a lot of non-coronavirus care.” Without that funding, which Trump signed off on as part of the coronavirus relief package, many hospitals might not have survived the pandemic.

The part of Owen’s tweet about testing is also important to fact-check. Because of this administration’s failure to produce tests, many people who were hospitalized for COVID-19 weren’t tested initially. Until April 14, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted as COVID-19 deaths only those in which the coronavirus was confirmed via testing. But they eventually adjusted their numbers to include those suspected of having COVID-19.

The truth is that most experts believe that the number of deaths that have resulted from this pandemic has been seriously undercounted, based on the fact that the number of people dying recently is a lot higher than the historical average.

So now you have the facts about this particular conflation of conspiracy theories. But they didn’t just pop up out of the blue for no reason. Instead, they serve the purpose of both covering up for Trump’s massive failures in response to the coronavirus outbreak and his desire now to pretend the whole crisis is over.

In documenting the president’s desire to simply move on, Peter Baker identified the resurrection of an old lie.

[Trump] openly admitted in March that he did not want to let infected patients from a cruise ship disembark because it would increase the number of cases counted in the United States. He essentially made the same calculation on Wednesday by saying that more testing only reveals more infections and therefore increases the numbers. “In a way, by doing all this testing we make ourselves look bad,” he said.

In other words, the one thing everyone knows is necessary in order to re-open the economy safely—testing—is the one thing Trump wants to avoid doing because it makes him look bad. As a result, people will pay the price with their lives and health, while the president relies on conspiracy theories to pretend that is not happening. The bottom line is that for Trump, feeding his ego is more important than people’s lives. That is pretty much the definition of malignant narcissism.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.