Trump roasted over weird WWII Spanish flu claim
US President Donald Trump has been roasted online for a weird gaffe he committed during today's White House media briefing.
It came during a bungled attempt to compare the current coronavirus pandemic to the horrors wrought by the Spanish flu in 1918.
"The closest thing is in 1917, they say, the great pandemic. It certainly was a terrible thing, where they lost anywhere from 50-100 million people. Probably ended the Second World War. All the soldiers were sick," Mr Trump said.
A couple of things are wrong here. First, the President cited the wrong year for the Spanish flu pandemic. Then he cited the wrong war.
Mr Trump presumably meant to refer to World War I, which ended in 1918. Soldiers in that conflict were indeed affected by the Spanish flu. World War II was a couple of decades later.
The President's screw-up sparked the usual deluge of snarky tweets online.
The Spanish Flu was in 1918 and WWII ended in 1945. Let’s end the Trump Presidency in 2020. pic.twitter.com/Kk7bFAaufr— Sean Kent (@seankent) August 10, 2020
Of course, a gaffe like this is hardly a capital offence, but it is awkward for Mr Trump, given he has sought to make mental acuity a core issue of the 2020 election campaign against former vice president Joe Biden.
Mr Trump has used Mr Biden's frequent verbal stumbles and memory lapses as evidence that his opponent lacks the ability to do the job.
He spent much of last month challenging Mr Biden to take a cognitive test designed to detect the early signs of dementia, while bragging about passing it himself.
"Biden can't put two sentences together. They wheel him out, he goes up, he repeats, they ask him questions. He reads a teleprompter and then he goes back into his basement," the President said during an interview with Fox News.
"Is Joe Biden senile?" host Chris Wallace asked.
"I don't want to say that. I'd say he's not competent to be president," Mr Trump replied.
"To be president, you have to be sharp and tough and so many other things. He doesn't even come out of his basement.
"Joe doesn't even know he's alive, OK? He doesn't even know he's alive."
As I wrote on the weekend - yep, that's a shameless plug - this line of attack could actually be quite effective, if Mr Trump himself weren't so prone to similar gaffes.
It's hard to make fun of Mr Biden for mangling his words when you're the guy who mispronounces Thailand as "Thighland" while reading off a prompter, or spends a quarter of an hour ranting about your ability to walk down a gentle ramp.
I defy anyone to watch Mr Trump's interview with Jonathan Swan last week, or read the transcripts of his frequently incoherent streams of consciousness, and honestly conclude he should be making mental health a campaign issue.
Weird World War II gaffe aside, today's White House briefing was notable due to a dramatic moment when the Secret Service suddenly pulled Mr Trump out of the room.
Mr Trump had been at the podium for a little over three minutes when a Secret Service agent suddenly interrupted him mid-sentence and told him he needed to leave.
"I mean the way they're going, it looks like they're going to be topping records, hopefully soon," Mr Trump was saying, referring to the stock market.
"Sir, we're just going to have to step out," the agent said from off-camera.
"Excuse me?" Mr Trump said, turning to face him.
The agent approached him and spoke into his ear.
"Oh," the President said.
"Excuse me," he told the press corps, before turning and walking out.
Mr Trump returned to the room a short time later and explained that shots had been fired just outside the White House grounds, but he had few details about the incident.
The Secret Service finally released a full statement at 11pm, local time.
"At approximately 5:53pm today, a 51-year-old male approached a US Secret Service Uniformed Division officer who was standing at his post on the corner of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, near the White House complex," the Secret Service said.
"The suspect approached the officer and told the officer he had a weapon. The suspect then turned around, ran aggressively towards the officer, and in a drawing motion, withdrew the object from his clothing. He then crouched into a shooter's stance, as if about to fire a weapon.
"The Secret Service officer discharged his weapon, striking the individual in the torso. Officers immediately rendered first aid to the suspect. Both the suspect and the officer were transported to local hospitals.
"The White House complex was not breached during the incident and no Secret Service protectees were ever in danger."
It said there would be an internal review of the officer's actions. The Metropolitan Police Department is also going to conduct an investigation.
Originally published as Trump roasted over weird WWII gaffe
Trump says the pandemic of 1918 which he says occurred in 1917 ended the Second World War, which ended in 1945.— Philip Bump (@pbump) August 10, 2020
Trump just said the Spanish Flu (in 1918) ended WW2 🤦🏻♂️— Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) August 10, 2020
Trump says that the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 "probably ended" World War II, which started in 1939— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) August 10, 2020