NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Donald Trump accused Democrats of “politicizing” the deadly coronavirus during a campaign rally here on Friday, claiming that the outbreak is “their new hoax” as he continued to downplay the risk in the U.S.
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump said. “They have no clue, they can’t even count their votes in Iowa.”
“This is their new hoax,” Trump continued, adding that attacking the White House’s response to the coronavirus had become the Democratic Party’s “single talking point.”
Trump has weaponized the word “hoax” throughout his presidency, using it to belittle and discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference as well as his impeachment trial.
Trump — who has been criticized for painting an overly rosy picture of the outbreak, often contradicting his own health officials — insisted on Friday that his administration was “magnificently organized” and “totally prepared” to address the virus.
More than 83,000 people have been sickened by the coronavirus and at least 2,857 have died since the start of January when the virus was first discovered in China. As the virus spread rapidly across Europe and the Middle East this past week, Wall Street suffered its worst week since the financial crisis.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
“We must understand that border security is also health security,” Trump added, as rallygoers chanted “build the wall.” “The Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans.”
Trump’s rally in South Carolina comes on the eve of the Democratic primary here on Saturday, and it’s the latest example of the president’s counterprogramming strategy to hold large events where Democrats are campaigning and voting, competing with them for media attention.