WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Donald Trump claimed Friday during a media blitz to relaunch his stumbling reelection campaign that his bout with Covid-19 has resulted in “a cure” for the devastating virus.
The Republican was speaking during a marathon interview with right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh — a session sandwiched between Fox News appearances and what Trump hopes will be his imminent return to rallies as he tries to catch surging Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“I can tell you it’s a cure,” he said, referring to the experimental Regeneron antibody cocktail that he took as part of therapeutic treatment after being hospitalized last week for three nights.
It’s “a total game changer” and “better than a vaccine,” he said.
In fact, there is no cure and still no approved vaccine for the coronavirus. The highly contagious disease has so far killed more than 210,000 Americans and continues to erupt in new flare-ups around the world.
Trump’s eye-catching claim came amid continuing questions over his true state of health, despite assurances from his official doctor and the Republican president’s increasingly frenetic attempts to get out of quarantine and back to campaigning.
With polls showing Biden far ahead and only 25 days to go until the November 3 election, Trump is now fighting on two fronts — his health and his political future.
Adding to the pressure, congressional Democrats who control the House of Representatives unveiled plans for a commission to investigate a president’s physical and mental fitness for the job — a move clearly meant to jab at Trump.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said it was time to examine Trump’s “disassociation from reality.”
Trump is repeatedly asserting that he feels fine and he has been backed up by statements from the presidential physician, Sean Conley.
But in his Limbaugh interview, Trump suggested for the first time that he had been close to death, had it not been for the therapeutic drugs.
“I’m talking to you today because of it. I could have been a bad victim,” he said, referring to friends of his who had died from Covid-19.
Trump said that doctors told him afterward, “you were going into a very bad phase.”
“You know what that means,” said the president.
According to Conley, Trump is now fit for a “safe return to public engagement” from Saturday.
Trump himself has said he would like to hold rallies in Florida on Saturday and possibly Pennsylvania on Sunday, but that ambitiously rapid timetable looked less likely after press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it “would be tough” logistically.
Battle for attention
The grounding of the campaign has deprived Trump of one of his main strengths — a huge energy for holding rallies around the country.
He is trying to make up for this with back-to-back appearances on friendly media outlets.
He spoke at length on Fox twice on Thursday and was due back on Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight show late Friday, appearing from the White House where he was to undergo what the network described as an on-air “medical evaluation,” conducted remotely by Fox contributor Doctor Marc Siegel.
“He is ready to go. He wants to talk to the American people, and he wants to be out there,” McEnany told Fox News.
Biden, however, is already picking up the pace of travel, with a stop in Nevada on Friday after going to Arizona on Thursday.
Polls show Biden leads heavily in key demographics including women and the elderly, prompting analysts to talk increasingly of a possible landslide victory.
Trump’s biggest liability — overwhelming public dissatisfaction over his handling of the coronavirus crisis — has returned as the headline issue of the campaign thanks to the president’s own infection.
With the clock running down, it had long been expected that Trump would attempt to use the three presidential debates to try to inflict a late, mortal wound to Biden’s challenge. But that too is turning the wrong way for the Republican.
After an angry first debate in Cleveland a second clash looks unlikely to take place. Organizers announced they were moving the event to a virtual format, citing the risk of coronavirus, and Trump refused to take part.
That would leave only a final opportunity to debate Biden on television on October 22.