The day the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. officially surpassed 200,000, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried and failed to defend President Donald Trump’s latest lie about the pandemic.
In response to Trump’s blatantly false claims that “nobody young” and “virtually nobody” had been affected by the virus, McEnany first claimed on Tuesday that he was “telling the truth.” She then said reporters were “taking the president out of context.”
“You are taking it out of context because you are making an assertion that he is saying he is not giving critical information when, in fact, he is,” McEnany told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
After Acosta pointed out that Trump was “glossing over” and “diminishing the fact” that young people can still become infected and then infect older people, McEnany said: “It is not a disease that affects young people in the same way as older people, which is the exact point the president was making last night.”
McEnany twists herself into a knot trying to defend Trump's lie that coronavirus "affects virtually nobody" pic.twitter.com/aBHdKRmJRE— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020
During a campaign rally Monday night, Trump falsely claimed that “nobody young” has been affected by the virus in some states.
“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, that’s it,” Trump said. “You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young. Below the age of 18, like nobody. They have a strong immune system. Who knows? Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system.”
“But it affects virtually nobody,” he added, continuing his penchant for downplaying the pandemic. “It’s an amazing thing.”
Trump’s statements contradict both data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his own previous remarks. More than 400,000 Americans under the age of 18 were infected with COVID-19 between March and July, according to a CDC report from August. Most cases involving people under 18 have been mild or asymptomatic, but many children and teenagers have been hospitalized after experiencing severe symptoms, and some have died from the virus.
In March, Trump himself said it was “startling” that “it’s not just old people” who are affected.
“It’s turning out it’s not just old people,” he told journalist Bob Woodward, according to recordings Woodward released earlier this month. “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old – older. Young people, too. Plenty of young people.”
When asked on Tuesday to respond to the grim milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., McEnany praised Trump and downplayed the issue by citing previous projections that deaths could reach 2 million.
“The fact that we have come nowhere near that number is a testament to this president taking immediate action,” she said.
“It keeps him up at night, thinking of even one life lost,” she added, but said the president will not publicly acknowledge or show remorse in response to the staggering number.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.