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Brain Klaas, an assistant professor of global politics at University College London, wrote a Global Opinions column for the Washington Post, calling the spreading coronavirus outbreak “Trump’s Chernobyl.”

The No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl power station exploded on Saturday, April 26, 1986, just outside the town of Pripyat in the Soviet Union. Yet, subordinates who feared their superiors kept quiet, and those superiors feared contracting the state and its leader. Because of a series of smaller lies, the Soviet Union appeared to have everything under control. 

Klaas writes: “The rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak is President Trump’s Chernobyl. By putting dangerous myths above objective facts, Trump has turned the crucial early phases of government response into a disaster. Some public health experts in government have undoubtedly kept quiet, having seen repeatedly what happens to those who publicly contradict this president. And Trump himself, along with those who surround him, has tried to construct a reality that simply does not exist.”

Trump tweeted two weeks ago: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the United States … Stock market is starting to look very good to me!” While there were a small number of cases at that point, public health experts made it clear that the number was likely to spike. Yet, Trump accused his critics of perpetrating a “hoax” and said their concerns were overblown. Trump said the number of cases, 15 at the time, would soon be “close to zero.”

There are more than 500 cases today. 

Public health experts and doctors rang alarm bells early on: testing kids weren’t available even for high-risk cases that were showing symptoms of COVID-19. The stock market is crashing. Indicators from bond markets suggest a serious recession. The death rate is climbing. Trump played golf over the weekend. 

“So far, Trump has been able to glide through crises of his own making because his base of support has often believed him over reality,” Klaas continues. “When fact-checkers expose Trump’s lies, many of his supporters distrust the fact-checkers, not the liar.”

“But coronavirus is different. Spin won’t make dead bodies disappear. Recessions can’t be warded off with a blistering tweet in all-capital letters. You can’t blame Hillary Clinton for hospital overcrowding. The Trump playbook works when everything else is working. It falls apart when the world is falling apart,” Klaas says. 

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