On the subject of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden misquoted Trump as saying, “I probably got it from Blue Star parents.” That’s not what Trump said.
In an Oct. 8 interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump said he always assumed he might contract the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 because as president, he has to meet with people and cannot always remain socially distanced. He mentioned a White House reception on Sept. 27 for the families of military veterans who died in action as one example.
“I meet a lot of people and I have to. I’m the president of the country. I can’t hang around in a basement,” Trump said. “So, I figured there would be a chance that I would catch it. Sometimes I’d be with — in groups of — for instance, Gold Star families.”
“I met with Gold Star families. I didn’t want to cancel that. But they all came in and they all talked about their son and daughter and father. And they all came up to me and they tell me a story, Maria,” Trump said. “And they tell me these stories and I can’t say, ‘Back up, stand 10 feet.’ I just can’t do it.”
Several new outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Military Times, wrote that what Trump said “appears to blame” those families, or “suggests” they were responsible for him testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.
But Biden went beyond that characterization in his remarks later that day at a campaign event in the swing state of Arizona.
After saying veterans “deserve better than a president who will say anything to deflect responsibility for any mistake he makes,” Biden went on to say: “I don’t know whether you noticed, he recently said that, they asked him where he got the COVID, he said, ‘I probably got it from Blue Star parents.’ They’re people who lost a child in battle.”
Trump didn’t say that.
When Bartiromo actually asked Trump how he may have contracted the virus, he didn’t provide a direct answer. He first talked about how Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis became infected even though they often wear face masks.
“You catch this thing. It’s, you know, it’s — it’s particles of dust. It’s tiny stuff,” Trump said.
“Now, as far as the White House is concerned, somebody got in. There was a day of celebration with Notre Dame, et cetera, et cetera. Somebody got in and people got affected,” he added, making an apparent reference to a Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who teaches law at the university.
At least 11 people who attended that event, including Trump, have since tested positive for the coronavirus.
It wasn’t until later in the interview, when Bartiromo again asked Trump about his condition and his symptoms, that Trump brought up the risk he takes when interacting with people he meets, including Gold Star families.
(Biden mentioned Blue Star families, which are immediate family members of those who served during a time of conflict. But Gold Star families are immediate relatives of those who died while serving in a time of conflict.)
Bartiromo, Oct: 8: And you said it was a blessing in disguise.
Trump: A blessing in disguise. I’m — I’m glad because I’m the leader. And I can’t be like Biden where I hang out in a basement every day. Sure, he — if I wanted to hang out in a basement, I wouldn’t catch it, but I meet a lot of people and I have to. I’m the president of the country. I can’t hang around in a basement.
So, I figured there would be a chance that I would catch it. Sometimes I’d be with — in groups of — for instance Gold Star families. I met with Gold Star families. I didn’t want to cancel that. But they all came in and they all talked about their son and daughter and father.
And, you know, they all came up to me and they tell me a story, Maria. It was really amazing actually, beautiful but sad. And they come up and they tell me a story about my son, sir, was in Iraq or he was in Afghanistan. And sir, he did this and he did that and then he charged in order to save his friends.
And yes, sir, he was killed but he saved his friends. He’s so brave, sir. And they tell me these stories and I can’t say, “Back up, stand 10 feet.” I just can’t do it. And I went through like 35 people and everyone had a different story. I could also say don’t tell stories. They’re telling the story of their son who just died or daughter —
Trump: — or husband who just died in a war or recently died, you know, mostly over the last 10, 12 years but some very recent. And I can’t back up, Maria, and say, “Give me room, I want room. Give me 12 feet, stay 12 feet away when you talk.” They come, they come, within an inch of my face sometimes.
They want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up. I’m not doing it. But I did say it’s like, you know — it’s obviously dangerous. It’s a dangerous thing I guess if you go by the COVID thing. But I’m thinking —
Trump: Look, I look at the numbers. I figured that you probably — that probably at some point I’d catch it and I’ll get better. That’s what happened. I’ve caught it.
When later asked about Trump’s remarks, a White House spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, told reporters the president wasn’t faulting Gold Star families.
“His point was merely that in the time frame that he was potentially exposed, there were a number of different venues that he’d been at and individuals he had interacted with that it could have come from — and by no means are blaming anyone who was present,” she said. “And we did take a lot of precautions for that event. So based on contact tracing, the data we have, we don’t think it arose from that event.”
Editor’s note: Swing State Watch is an occasional series about false and misleading political messages in key states that will help decide the 2020 presidential election.
Editor’s Note: Please consider a donation to FactCheck.org. We do not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.