Donald Trump (second to left) participates in a round of golf amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Sterling, Virginia, US. Reuters
US President Donald Trump on Monday fumed at negative media coverage of him playing golf over Memorial Day weekend, as the US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000.
“The Fake and Totally Corrupt News makes it sound like a mortal sin!” the golf-loving president said on Twitter, noting that the game at his own course in Virginia was the first time he had played since early March.
The timing of his outing, as the nation approached a milestone in deaths from the pandemic, sparked widespread criticism in the media, with commentators recalling Trump’s own past attacks on his predecessor Barack Obama for playing the game during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
“There are times to play and times that you can’t play. It sends the wrong signal,” Trump said at the time.
“You know when you’re president you sorta say, like, ‘I’m gonna give it up for a couple of years and I’m really gonna focus on the job,’” he said in 2014.
After being raked over the coals at the weekend, Trump lambasted the media as being “sick with hatred and dishonesty.”
“I knew this would happen!” he said.
“What they don’t say is that it was my first golf in almost 3 months, and, if I waited three years, they would do their usual ‘hit’ pieces anyway.”
The Republican leader went on to say that in 2014 Obama flew to his home state of Hawaii shortly after he had publicly denounced the beheading of American hostage James Foley by Daesh militants.
Obama apologised for the poorly timed visit afterwards and acknowledged the gravity attached to presidential behaviour at such moments.
Trump received some unexpected support from one-time Obama adviser David Axelrod.
“I don’t often defend this @POTUS but I don’t begrudge him a round of golf,” Axelrod, now a political commentator, said on Twitter.
“Besides, it gives the rest of us a respite from those crazy tweets! Yes, it’s hypocritical for @realDonaldTrump to have attacked @BarackObama for seeking some relief from the pressures of the presidency on the golf course when Trump has logged many more rounds,” he said.
“It’s also hypocritical to attack Trump for it now if you defended Obama then.”
The United States has more than 1.6 million infections, the highest in the world, while forecast models for possible COVID-19 deaths predict the death toll will exceed 100,000 by June 1. But almost all 50 states have begun relaxing their coronavirus restrictions.
Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, is eager to have the pandemic-stricken economy in at least somewhat better shape by the fall to bolster his chances of staying in the White House.
He has also stepped up his travel schedule in recent weeks.
On Monday, he visited Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He, Vice President Mike Pence and their spouses did not wear masks during the ceremony, along with military officers and enlisted personnel who took part. Trump has largely been reluctant to don a mask throughout the pandemic.
The United States on Thursday also passed a total of more than 4 million coronavirus infections since the first US case was documented in January, according to a Reuters tally, reflecting a nationwide escalation of the pandemic.
The vaccine, called AZD1222, has been described by the World Health Organisation's chief scientist as the leading candidate in a global race to halt a pandemic that has claimed more than 600,000 lives.
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