A few days ago, Trump opened his daily press briefing with a White House-made video intended to prove that he acted decisively to counter the coronavirus threat. The video was a response to a major story in the New York Times about his failure to take the virus seriously but to compare it to the common flu. Trump
smiled smugly as the taxpayer-funded tribute to Trump played.

As this story in the Intercept by Robert Mackey demonstrates, the video had a fatal flaw. Its timeline showed that Trump did nothing in the month of February, at a time when decisive action as needed.

The reporters were not fooled.

But, as CBS News correspondent Paula Reid pointed out to Trump after the video ended, there was a huge gap in the timeline: It mentioned absolutely no action by him in February and there was, as the Times had noted, a period of “six long weeks” after the travel restrictions until he “finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing.”

In fact, the only entry on the video timeline for February — the month Trump held mass campaign rallies and described criticism of his handling of the virus from Democrats as “their new hoax” — was February 6: “CDC Ships First Testing Kits.” The fact that those test kits were defective, a massive failure at a critical moment, seems like an odd thing to brag about.

Having seemed so pleased with himself while the video was playing, Trump looked stunned by Reid’s observation that its timeline showed the period of inaction the Times had described. “The argument is that you bought yourself some time,” by imposing the partial travel ban from China, Reid noted. “You didn’t use it to prepare hospitals, you didn’t use it to ramp up testing.”

As Trump interrupted to denounce her as “so disgraceful,” the correspondent pressed on to ask what, exactly, Americans were supposed to take away from his gauzy video tribute to himself? “Right now nearly 20 million people are unemployed. Tens of thousands of Americans are dead. How is this sizzle reel or this rant supposed to make people feel confident in an unprecedented crisis?”

Trump had no response but to shift back to praising himself for restricting travel from China in January. “But what did you do with the time that you bought?” Reid asked. “The month of February… the video has a gap.”

After the briefing, Eric Lipton, one of the authors of the investigation that so enraged Trump, observed on Twitter that nothing in the video or the president’s comments “undermines even a single fact in the stories we published over the weekend.”

“The truth remains that the nation’s top health advisers concluded as of Feb. 14 that the U.S. needed to use targeted containment efforts to slow the virus spread,” Lipton added. “Trump then waited until March 16 to announce his support for these measures.”

Thank heavens for the free press!