President Donald Trump on Monday gave himself an "A+" grade on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he and his administration had done a "phenomenal job" even as the death toll neared 200,000 Americans.
At the same time, he gave himself a "D" on what he called "public relations."
“We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job. A phenomenal job. Other than public relations, but that's because I have fake news, you know, I can’t -- you can’t convince them of anything, they’re a fake. But we have done – on public relations, I give myself a D," he said in a phone interview on "Fox and Friends."
"On the job itself, we take an A+, with the ventilators and now with the vaccines that are years ahead of schedule," he added.
“We're rounding the corner -- with or without a vaccine -- they a hate it when I say that, but that's the way it is,” Trump said, as experts warn the outbreak could get worse over the winter. “We're rounding the corner on the pandemic,” he said.
Once again, he bucked all the experts by ambiguously promising “you’ll have” a vaccine "long before the end of the year, maybe, maybe by the end of October.”
In reality, the only thing public health officials and experts have said could possibly happen by the end of October -- under a best-case scenario -- would be one or more pharmaceutical companies obtaining enough data from ongoing vaccine trials for regulators at the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate whether the vaccine was safe and effective. If they approve its use, only then could a vaccine start to be rolled out to Americans on a limited basis.
Trump said three companies were “doing really well.” Asked which company was the closest, he said “Pfizer’s doing really well” and that Johnson & Johnson was “doing well” but “that’ll probably be a little later.” He also characterized said “Moderna’s doing very well" and noted the United States' involvement with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca's vaccine development.
Biden and other Democrats have accused Trump of putting political pressure on the vaccine approval process in order to be able to cite progress on a vaccine before the November election. In recent days, Trump has claimed to have forced the FDA to work faster.
“One of the reasons we're doing well is because what we did with the FDA," Trump said Monday. "Normally, if this were Obama and Biden, they wouldn't have this vaccine for another two and a half years because they wouldn't have been able to get through the process of the FDA." He provided no evidence for his claims.
"Total safety, by the way," he added. "Total safety. It's number one. But if this were up to them, if they had it instead of us -- what I did with the FDA was very good, and we speeded the process up to a point where we're going to have them in a matter of weeks. They wouldn't of had it for two and a half years."
Trump and the White House have not mentioned the 200,000 deaths milestone, nor have they indicated any plans to mark the grim occasion.
He ordered flags lowered to half-staff when when 100,000 Americans had died.