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As Trump sends mixed messages on coronavirus, some loyal supporters cling to conspiracy theories

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As Trump sends mixed messages on coronavirus, some loyal supporters cling to conspiracy theories

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With coronavirus cases surging around the country, President Donald Trump has continued to cast doubt on health officials and his own administrations response to the pandemic, leading some of his fiercely loyal supporters to question not only advice from experts but the existence of the virus itself.

Since the early days of the virus, the president has repeatedly downplayed its impact, promised it would “disappear,” incorrectly compared it to the seasonal flu multiple times and bucked wearing a mask until months into the pandemic, even mocking political opponents who did wear them.

In response, ardent supporters have echoed the presidents shifting views on the virus, ranging from refusing to wear a mask despite federal guidelines, to out-right not believing in a virus that has left over 130,000 Americans dead, according to interviews with over a dozen Trump supporters at recent campaign events and around the country.

“COVID is nothing but an avenue to try to take, in my opinion, and I’m just speaking for myself, to try to take the president out,” said loyal Trump supporter Vinny Scarnisi, of Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

“Its a brainwashing. There’s no reason to be scared. Absolutely not. Its a joke.”

Scarnisis words questioning the threat of the coronavirus come as the death toll continues to rise in the United States, cases swell across the country and as hospitals in hotspots approach capacity.

On Monday, the president used his massive platform to again sow doubt in his own administration’s response to the virus, continuing a pattern thats plagued the countys pandemic efforts.

Trump retweeted a post to his over 80 million followers by game show host Chuck Woolery claiming “everyone is lying” about the pandemic, including naming the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the media, Democrats, and even doctors, to damage his reelection chances.

Defending the presidents tweet, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump does have confidence in the CDC but his intent was to express his displeasure with “rogue individuals leaking guidelines prematurely.”

“The notion of the tweet was to point out the fact that, when we use science, we have to use it in a way that is not political,” McEnany said.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

While it’s commonplace for many Americans to form political stances from their party’s leader, Kevin M. Kruse, professor of history at Princeton University, says that influence is “especially true in the case of the stronger supporters of President Trump.”

“They definitely take their sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is fake, from the president himself,” Kruse told ABC News. “I think the mixed signals the president has given on the severity of the crisis, on the reliability of medical authorities, including his own CDC and Dr. Fauci, and the efficacy of wearing masks, has all been called into question in their mind because the president has cast so much doubt on them.”

Kruse says some of the presidents most steadfast supporters are inclined to believe and trust what Trump says, following the historical pattern of presidents and their core bases. However, he says, presidential influence is amplified in the Trump era.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen it quite to this degree where they’ve rejected all other authorities. Even ones they previously trusted. When it comes down to the president versus anyone else they side with the president.”

Polling points to a highly partisan divide when it comes to wearing a mask to combat the virus, with Republicans far less likely to wear one than Democrats, 36% to 94%, respectively, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told FiveThirtyEight that the hyperpartisan environment around the coronavirus response has only made combating the virus more difficult.

“When you dont have unanimity in an approach to something, youre not as effective in how you handle it,” Fauci said. “So I think youd have to make the assumption that if there wasnt such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”

Many of the president’s supporters echo specific language Trump has used to downplay the pandemic throughout the year, including when he called the virus Democrats’ ‘new hoax’ at a rally in South Carolina back in February, at the time referring to how his rivals were “politicizing the coronavirus.”

“The pandemic is a hoax — a hoax. I don’t believe that for a minute,” said 91-year-old Warren Goddard, who showed up to Trumps rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, only to find that it had been canceled.

Goddard told ABC News that he planned on going inside the rally but wasnt going to be wearing a face mask and hasnt been wearing one throughout the pandemic.

“I cant get the virus. Its not protection,” Goddard said, adding that he doesnt believe that a mask would keep him from getting sick.

His daughter from Connecticut, Margaret Becotte, also says she does not wear a mask, but did have a souvenir “Trump 2020” mask.

“I dont feel that this does any good to protect you from anything,” she said. “This is a piece of cloth that does nothing. Nothing at all My children will not wear that mask.”

Becotte called the advice from medical experts, who say one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus is to wear a mask, “controversial” and says she wont support businesses that mandate wearing a mask because it infringes on her rights.

“I will never do business with them again if they asked me to leave because it’s my constitutional right to make my choice for my body, and what I want to do.”

A few weeks back at the presidents last rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Peggy Reeser, 77, said she was attending the large-scale in-door event with full knowledge that at her age put her in a high-risk demographic, telling ABC News “I think [Trump] is worth it” when asked why she was taking the risk.

David Angle, who attended the rally with Reeser, called COVID-19 a “magic virus” and said he only wore his mask to “piss people off.” “Im more worried about driving my car or having a heart attack than the coronavirus,” Angle said.

Another Tulsa rally attendee, Gisela Soliday, 76, said she wasnt worried about the virus because she didnt believe the number of deaths being reported was accurate and repeatedly tried to compare COVID-19 to the flu.

Since the start of the pandemic, Trump regularly appeared in front of cameras for once-daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings, never wearing a mask and repeatedly downplaying their necessity.

It wasnt until July 11 that the president was seen wearing one in public when he visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where it is required for everyone to wear a mask.

A Trump supporter in Florida who told ABC News in April that she refused to wear a mask because the president wasnt wearing one now says shell wear a mask after seeing him wear one at Walter Reed.

“If he’s decided to wear one then that means that this is getting really serious. I have not worn one yet, but I will be wearing one now,” Kimberly Love, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said when asked if seeing Trump in a mask swayed her to start wearing one.

Love also said for a period of time she had been carrying around a screenshot of a bogus card that claims she doesn’t have to wear a mask.

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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