It’s unfair to treat every gaffe as evidence of malice or incompetence. But were Trump’s demonstrably false statements gaffes?

Public officials misspeak all the time. Journalists make mistakes all the time. Ordinary citizens over-react to headlines without reading the full article all the time. We are all of us human. It’s unfair for any of us to treat every gaffe as evidence of malice or incompetence.

For example, critics of President Trump are stretching when they say Trump called coronavirus a “hoax.” In the context of his Feb 28 campaign rally in NC, he was pretty clearly referring to the Democrats’ latest reaction to what Trump saw as his own strong, successful actions.

It’s legitimate to criticize Trump for downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, for pandering to racists with his preferred term “Wuhan virus,” and for calling for unity while continuing his usual personal attacks on Democrats and journalists.

But Sunday, something else happened.

On a weekend when Trump bragged about the high ratings his coronavirus briefings were drawing, reporters gave Trump the chance to clarify several things he had been recently criticized for saying.

I don’t see this as a biased difference of interpretation. The reporters neutrally quoted Trump’s statements, accurately noted the unusually negative reaction, and gave Trump the chance to respond.

Instead of taking the opportunity to walk back his earlier statements, or provide nuance or context, he simply denied making those statements.

This is not good.

(CNN) On two occasions during Sunday’s coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump falsely denied he had said words he had said publicly last week. When PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor noted that the President had said he did not believe that governors actually need all the equipment they claimed they did, Trump said, “I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that on Fox News on Thursday.

Later, when CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond noted that Trump had said he wanted governors to be “appreciative” of him, and that “if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said, “But I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that at the Friday briefing. —CNN

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