President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers on Sunday faced tough questions from political talk show hosts about the president’s unsubstantiated claim that doctors are being paid to inflate the number of COVID-19 deaths.
Trump claimed without evidence at a campaign rally Friday that doctors were falsely reporting coronavirus-linked deaths for monetary gain.
“Our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID,” Trump told the crowd. “You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is, they say, ‘I’m sorry, but everybody dies of COVID.’”
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace confronted Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski about the president’s conspiracy theory.
“What is the president’s evidence that doctors, many of whom are risking their lives treating these patients, are in fact lining their pockets by saying they are inflating the number of COVID deaths?” Wallace asked.
Lewandowski admitted that he hasn’t seen “evidence” backing up Trump’s claim, but suggested anyway that doctors are inflating the numbers.
“I think we are categorizing, sometimes, individuals who may have COVID who aren’t dying from that and claiming it as a COVID death, which is not accurate,” Lewandowski said.
Wallace pointed out that several studies suggested the number of people dying from COVID-19 was actually underreported. He also mentioned that the American Medical Association condemned Trump’s claim, calling it “malicious, outrageous and completely misguided.”
“Does the president stand by his accusation that doctors are profiteering off this virus?” Wallace pressed Lewandowski.
“You know, Chris, I haven’t spoke to the president about this directly so I couldn’t answer that. But I can tell you that ―”
Wallace interrupted: “You understand it’s a pretty serious … thing to say about the nation’s doctors who are on the front lines?”
Lewandowski said the Trump campaign has “enormous respect” for doctors before praising the administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Jason Miller, another Trump campaign adviser, defended Trump’s smear against doctors in an interview Sunday with ABC’s “This Week.”
″Why does the president repeatedly attack doctors … working on the front lines, saying they’re inflating COVID numbers?” host George Stephanopoulos asked.
Miller denied that Trump was “attacking” anyone, arguing that the president was simply discussing Americans’ desire to “get back to life as normal.”
Stephanopoulos pushed back: “But, Jason, we all just saw it. He was talking about doctors inflating COVID deaths for money.”
Miller said he wasn’t going to “get into the billing aspects” and claimed there have been “all sorts of independent things pointing to that.” But Miller did not cite a single report backing up Trump’s claim.
“The fact of the matter is, people want to get their life back to normal,” Miller said.
In a subsequent interview on “This Week,” Anita Dunn, an adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, bashed Miller for defending Trump’s attack on doctors.
“I’m astonished that Jason Miller spent as much time as he did without ever saying that the doctors who are on front lines … without ever defending them,” Dunn told Stephanopoulos. She added: “These people have been risking their lives since the beginning of this crisis.”
“They have been out there every day ― many of them working double shifts,” she continued. “And I just want to say, for the record, that it tells you everything you need to know about the difference between the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign.”
The U.S. continues to lead the world in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 9 million infections and at least 230,000 deaths as of Sunday. The U.S. reported just over 100,000 new infections on Friday, setting a record for the most coronavirus cases confirmed in a single 24-hour period.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ― who was hospitalized for COVID-19 last month days after helping prep Trump for a presidential debate ― appeared baffled by the president’s smear against doctors.
″I have no explanation for that,” Christie, a Republican and ABC News contributor, told Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “I don’t understand it.”