Trump, in his telling, has saved anywhere from “tens of thousands” to 4 million lives. Since May, Trump has claimed he saved “millions” of lives nearly three dozen times. You can watch Trump repeatedly defend his response to the pandemic by pointing to this metric in the video above.
But as The Washington Post reported in April, Trump’s claim of saving millions of lives is based on a model that assumed that little to nothing would be done to combat the virus over a period of a few years, which was not the case even before the Trump administration recommended shutting down the country in March.
Trump’s rhetoric on saving millions of lives mirrors other ways he has sought to downplay the threat of the coronavirus while boasting about his response to it. Trump has downplayed the threat of the virus more than five dozen times, has said the virus would “go away” or “disappear” nearly two dozen times, and has pointed to misleading or incomplete data to suggest that the U.S. caseload and mortality rates are lower than they actually are compared with other countries.
The Trump administration has given mixed messages on how many lives have been saved by Trump’s actions. On March 17 Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, downplayed the Imperial College study that projected as many as 2.2 million American deaths and that has since been used by the White House to model the pandemic.
“I think, you know, models are models. And they’re based on input, and they’re based on infectiousness without any controls,” Birx said at the time. “I can tell you we’ve never seen that level of infections that modeled up to that 2.2 million in mortality.”
Last week, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the lockdowns “saved 3 to 4 million lives.” She did not respond to a Post email at the time asking for the source of the figure.
Officials have previously told The Post that Imperial’s 2.2 million death projection was used to convince Trump to stop downplaying the virus.
On June 17, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, said the coronavirus lockdowns pushed by the Trump administration had indeed saved “millions of lives.”
But just 13 days later, as states and localities continued to ease restrictions, Fauci said the United States could soon have 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day “if this does not turn around.”
Since then, the United States has eclipsed its previous single-day records for new cases seven times in 28 days.