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I Watched Donald Trump’s Excruciating Axios Interview so You Don’t Have To

For all the talk about how the media loves Donald Trump because he provides endless content, it’s difficult to cover his presidency, at this point, in a way that’s interesting, unless you’re willing to pretend that any of his genuinely abhorrent qualities are some kind of “new low” or in any way surprising or unpredictable. This made his recent Axios on HBO interview a particularly excruciating 38 minutes for anyone who has heard this whole schtick before.

Of course, things opened up with discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Trump claimed is “under control as much as you can control it” and said of roughly 1,000 Americans dying per day, “They are dying, that’s true. And you have—it is what it is.” He also brought his own charts to paint a more positive picture of what’s happening in the U.S. by comparing the number of U.S. deaths to our total number of cases, rather than to the total population.

It’s not quite at “I edited a hurricane forecast with a Sharpie to make myself look correct” level, but it’s a spectacle all its own that is just painful to watch:

It, of course, became an instant meme:

But as interviewer Jonathan Swan pointed out, that would be good if it didn’t still work out to one of the highest per capita death rates in the world—not the highest, but still not good in any way. Trump also repeated his constant refrain that the reason the U.S. has more recorded cases of the virus is that we’ve done more testing, despite that whether we’ve done more testing than other countries or not, our test positivity rate is still high, which is not only a bad sign itself, but indicates we should be doing more testing.

Trump might want to cool it on touting that we’re doing more testing than anyone else when, combined with a positivity rate that indicates we should still do even more, that just means our outbreak is particularly bad. Still, he’s been at that for months and certainly isn’t going to stop now, and his desire to stick to his tired old talking points was clear on all of the subjects that came up during the interview.

He repeatedly pulled variations of the “many people are saying” line to back up his absurd claims, failing to specify anyone in particular when Swan would counter with “Who?” Although, his vague “books” and “manuals” justification, at one point, was at least a little fresh.

He also returned to several of his favorite talking points on various subjects, including focusing on economic competition with China and claiming victory there, claiming he saved “millions” of American lives with coronavirus travel restrictions despite that just not being true, wishing alleged child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell well in prison (yes, again), lying about voter fraud and how voting by mail even works, making bold claims of things he’ll accomplish while failing to provide details (remember his imaginary tax cuts?), blaming the Obama administration for things that had nothing to do with them, claiming to have accomplished the most for Black Americans out of any president since Lincoln, and complaining about who did and didn’t attend his inauguration.

Although, the one about his inauguration deserves some specific examination, considering he was talking about recently deceased civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, and the question was about Lewis’ legacy, which Trump—despite being only six years younger than Lewis and very much a firsthand witness to the history Lewis made—claimed not to be aware of before intentionally diminishing, saying, “He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others.”

This is, of course, an absolutely awful thing to say. Donald Trump already being the kind of person who regularly says awful things like this doesn’t change that. I just wish I were in any way surprised.

(image: HBO)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.