Team Trump tries new spin: Biden lacks ‘firsthand experience’ with virus

With Donald Trump hospitalized with COVID-19 as the 2020 campaign enters its final month, the president’s staffers have begun trotting out a new message to try to resurrect his flagging poll numbers: that catching the deadly disease is a sign of Trump’s strength — and that Joe Biden is hiding from it.

In a Monday interview with Fox News, Erin Perrine, the Trump campaign’s director of communications, was asked whether the president’s diagnosis would cause him to “change his messaging” if and when he resumes campaigning. In response, she implied former Vice President Joe Biden’s lack of “firsthand experience” with the coronavirus meant he was missing an important qualification.

“Well, firsthand experience is always going to change how someone is going to relate to something that’s been happening,” Perrine replied. “The president has coronavirus right now, he is battling it head-on as toughly as only President Trump can, and, listen, of course that’s going to change the way that he, he, he speaks of it because it will be a firsthand experience. But, you know, that experience, that experience of not only coronavirus, but of being president of the United States, that’s why you just see a different tone overall from him.”

Pressed on why Trump has centered his campaign to date on issues such as “law and order” rather than the pandemic, which has so far killed at least 209,000 Americans, Perrine again went after Biden.

“He has talked about it all. And listen, he has experience as commander in chief, he has experience as a businessman, he has experience — now — fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those.”

Perrine was not alone among Trump staffers trying to depict the president’s illness as an asset. During a Sunday interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Jason Miller, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Biden wore a face mask as a “prop.”

“This is a general-in-the-field-type moment that [Trump] couldn’t just stay upstairs, hidden in the Lincoln Bedroom or in the White House. He couldn’t stay hidden in his basement, saying, ‘I’m going to shut down forever,’” Miller said.

“I’d say that with regard to Joe Biden, I think too often he’s used the mask as a prop,” Miller said, adding, “But, also, we’ve seen with — with Joe Biden, I mean — we can’t all just stay in our basement for the rest of our lives. We have to get out there and live our lives and take this on, develop the vaccine, develop more therapeutics, and defeat it.”

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Sunday found that 59 percent of Americans believe Trump has not been “wearing a mask and social distancing properly” during the pandemic. Twenty percent of those surveyed said he had. Fifty-one percent of Americans said Trump could have avoided contracting COVID-19 if he had taken stricter precautions, while 18 percent said he would not have.

Trump has occasionally appeared in public with a face mask, often while touring factories, but has held numerous rallies and White House events without them, and most campaign aides and White House staffers have done the same. At least a dozen people, including three Republican senators, who have been in contact with him over the past 10 days have tested positive for the virus, and one, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is also hospitalized.

19 PHOTOSPresident Trump's supporters outside the Walter Reed hospitalSee GalleryPresident Trump's supporters outside the Walter Reed hospitalBETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Young supporters hold up signs wishing President Donald Trump good health outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)Supporters of President Donald Trump drive past the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump went to the hospital Friday after testing positive for COVID-19.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A supporter of President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as they drive by fellow supporters as they gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate without face masks at the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital Friday after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)Supporters of President Donald Trump, most not wearing masks, gather and hold signs near an entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump went to the hospital Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: President Donald Trump supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday October 04, 2020 in Bethesda, MD. Trump flew to Walter Reed on Friday as he battles Covid-19. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)President Donald Turmp supporters gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Anthony Peltier)Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump’s sand sculpture is seen with their health recovery message as it is creating by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik at the Bay of Bengal Sea’s eastern coast beach at Puri, 65 km away from the eastern Indian state Odisha’s capital city Bhubaneswar,on October 04, 2020. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)04 October 2020, US, Bethesda: Dan Golden, a supporter of US President Donald Trump, stands with a flag opposite the entrance to the Walter Reed Military Hospital. Donald Trump, who was infected with the corona virus together with his wife Melania, was transferred to the hospital on Friday. Photo: Can Merey/dpa (Photo by Can Merey/picture alliance via Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump honk their horn and wave the national flag as they drive past Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A man poses for a photo next to a cardboard cutout of First Lady Melania Trump outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where President Donald Trump and the First Lady where admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump honk their horn and wave the national flag as they drive past Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: Supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 04: A police officer pushes back a supporter of President Donald Trump who ran up to the window of a car to yell at a woman that said Black Lives Matter outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the President was admitted for treatment of COVID-19 on October 4, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. The President announced via Twitter early Friday morning that he had tested positive. Numerous other prominent GOP figures and members of Congress have also tested positive in the last few days. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)Up Next

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“It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about COVID,” Trump said on Sunday. “I learned it by really going to school, this is the real school, this isn’t the ‘Let’s read the book’ school, and I get it, and I understand it.”

Moments later, however, Trump, who is still considered contagious, startled health experts by departing his suite at Walter Reed and getting into an SUV with a security detail to wave to a small number of supporters gathered outside the hospital.

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