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After nearly four years of perplexing interviews with US president Donald Trump, the bar is pretty high for what qualifies as outrageous, jaw-dropping or even just plain mad.
Enter Jonathan Swan of American news site Axios, who not only managed to clear that bar but fly so far over it that even in 2020 his interview has still managed to prompt a general response of “omg is this actually real life?”.
Much of the interview covered the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has so far killed more than 150,000 Americans – the highest death toll of any country.
In a particularly bizarre segment, Trump brandished pieces of paper while trying to convince Swan that his administration was winning the battle against the virus.
The president said: “Those people who really understand it say it’s incredible, the job that we’ve done.”
Swan replied: ”Who says that?”
There was no reply from the president. Instead, he continued to insist that other countries were faring far worse.
Trump: “If you look a this chart here, the United States is lower in numerous categories. We’re lower than... the world.”
Swan: “Lower than the world? What does that mean?”
Trump: “Lower than Europe.
Swan: “In what? Oh, you’re doing deaths as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about deaths as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad. Much worse that South Korea, Germany, et cetera.”
Trump: “You can’t do that.”
Swan: “Why can’t I do that?”
Trump: “You have to go by the cases. The cases that are there.”
Swan: “Why not as a proportion of population? Look at South Korea – 51m population, 300 deaths.”
Trump: “You don’t know that, you don’t know that.”
Swan: “You think they’re faking their statistics?”
Trump: “I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with South Korea.”
At this point Trump rifled through his pieces of paper and pulled out another chart, saying: “Here’s one right here. You take the United States – we’re last. Meaning we’re first.”
It is not clear what the president was referring to.
It was just one of many mind-boggling moments. Other highlights included:
Trump has long insisted that the only reason the pandemic is so bad in the US is because they’re conducting more tests than any other country.
Aside from the patently false assumption that somehow coronavirus cases only exist when you test positive for them, the incredibly high death toll is evidence enough of the terrible situation in the US.
Undeterred, Trump once again picked up the theme of testing “too much”.
Trump: “There are those who say ‘you can test too much’. You do know that?”
Swan: “Who says that?”
Trump: “Just read the manuals, read the books.”
Swan: “Manuals? What manuals?”
Trump: “Read the books.”
Swan: “What books?”
The coronavirus test itself
One section in which the president did speak the truth, albeit it not to his advantage, was when he pointed out there was no test for coronavirus when he took office in 2016.
Trump: “When I took over we didn’t even have a test.”
Swan: “Why would you have a test? The virus didn’t exist.”
Trump: “We didn’t have a test because there was no test.”
On global warming and nuclear weapons
Trump: “Nuclear proliferation is a much bigger problem than global warming... in terms of the real world.”
On his comprehension abilities
Trump: “I comprehend extremely well, probably better than anyone you’ve interviewed in a long time.”
On Ghislane Maxwell
Away from coronavirus, Trump was also asked why he wished Ghislane Maxwell well after she was arrested for alleged child sex trafficking.
Not only did he he defend his words, but he also floated the conspiracy theory that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered.
Swan: “Ghislane Maxwell has been arrested on allegations of child sex trafficking. Why would you wish such a person well?”
Trump: “First of all I don’t know that...”
Swan: “She has. She’s been arrested for that.”
Trump: “Her friend or boyfriend was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She’s now in jail. Yeah I wish her well. I’d wish you well. I’d wish a lot of people well.”
To top it all off, Trump also dismissed the legacy of John Lewis, the Democratic congressman who dedicated his life to the civil rights movement.
Trump: “He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.”