Trump says in Philly town hall: 'I didn't downplay' coronavirus, 'I up-played it'

By Jonathan Tamari, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Political News

The event was filled many of Trump's by now familiar falsehoods, misdirections and exaggerations. Even before he spoke, Philadelphia Democrats took aim at Trump's response to the pandemic.

State Sen. Sharif Street said Trump had shown little concern for the city and failed to provide the resources Philadelphia needs, all while trying to make it harder to vote with lawsuits attacking voting by mail and ballot drop boxes.

"He is attempting to frustrate the votes of folks, but especially the votes of Black and brown folks," Street said. "Our communities have already been hit hardest by COVID-19 and he doesn't care."

Hundreds of chanting protesters gathered Tuesday afternoon outside the event, outnumbering Trump supporters who also descended on the area, in a city where he won only about 16% of the vote in 2016.

Public polls have consistently shown Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania, though some show a tight race and members of both parties expect the contest to be close throughout the election.

The town hall came as the Trump campaign, having burned through a considerable financial advantage, returned to the television airwaves in Pennsylvania after going dark in the state for several weeks (some national spots still aired in the state).

It also came amid a sharp back-and-forth between him and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, after a federal judge in Pittsburgh threw out some of the governor's coronavirus restrictions shutting down thousands of "non-life-sustaining" businesses and limiting how many people can gather in one place. The judge ruled Monday that the limits were unconstitutional.


Trump, on Twitter, shared supporters' angry posts, including one saying to Wolf, "YOUR NOT GOING TO MURDER US!!"

Wolf, who had already softened many of the limits, said he plans to appeal. The pandemic has killed almost 8,000 Pennsylvanians and infected more than 146,000, and many experts worry another surge is looming in the fall. Earlier this month, Deborah Birx, Trump's coronavirus task force coordinator, said Pennsylvania has done a "remarkable" job combating the pandemic.

"The president could do nothing more than stare at his cellphone and send out tweets, share messages of hate, messages of division, messages of disinformation," Wolf said Tuesday.

Biden has held numerous events in Pennsylvania, too, and both he and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, are scheduled to visit Thursday. Biden is scheduled to attend his own town hall, hosted by CNN, in Scranton. Harris will make her first Philadelphia stop since officially becoming the Democratic nominee for vice president.

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