Trumpworld delighted in cruelty. Now that Trump has COVID, it demands empathy.

afisher@businessinsider.com (Anthony L. Fisher)
·5 min read
  • Trump supporters love how he "owns the libs," including when he mocked Hillary Clinton's bout with pneumonia on the 2016 campaign trail.

  • Now that Trump has COVID, Trumpists are shocked — shocked! — that some of his critics are being "mean" to him.

  • Even an amoral bully such as Trump deserves sympathy for contracting a dreaded disease that's already killed 200,000 of his fellow Americans.

  • But after luxuriating in Trump's cruelty for years, his supporters have absolutely no moral high ground on which to stand.

  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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Related: Highlights from Trump and Biden's first presidential debate

Trumpists love their Dear Leader in no small measure because of his talent for unapologetically engaging in abject cruelty.

Whether he was mocking a disabled reporter's affliction and delighting in Hillary Clinton's health travails on the 2016 campaign trail or separating migrant children with Down syndrome from their parents and ridiculing Joe Biden's son's struggle with drug addiction during his time in office — Trump supporters can't get enough of the Dear Leader triggering the libs, or really anyone with a conscience.

To his fervent supporters, Trump's callous viciousness is funny. It's the humorless politically correct scolds and loser Never Trumper conservatives who need to lighten up, they say.

Now that President Trump and first lady Melania have tested positive for COVID-19, Trumpworld has discovered the value of empathy. And they are shocked — shocked! — that some of Trump's critics have delighted in the irony of Trump's coronavirus denialism contributing to his own infection.

On Trump's favorite show, "Fox and Friends," on Friday morning, the conservative Washington Examiner correspondent writer Byron York said, "This is a time for people to pray for their leaders, to wish them well," adding that the Trump critics snarking over his illness would likely come to regret being so mean to the president.

The conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who sells "Leftist Tears" cups on his website, sarcastically tweeted Friday: "Looking forward to all the kind-hearted expressions of sympathy to Trump and Melania from the blue-checkmark Left."

While Shapiro has been cagey in his support for Trump — distinguishing himself from "Never Trump" by calling himself "Sometimes Trump" — he's demonstrated a Trumpian comfortability for mocking the ill, such as when he joked in 2016 that then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was sick with pneumonia, "should pledge to defeat ISIS by coughing on them."

The Trumpist podcaster Dan Bongino, who this week praised Trump as "an apex warrior" following his disgraceful debate performance, on Friday tweeted: "This morning is the strongest reminder in a long time about how sick and disgusting the Left is."

Bongino's tone-policing is particularly rich given his proclamation in 2018: "My entire life right now is about owning the libs."

Explicitly laying out his support of "the combative, no-retreat style, of Donald Trump," Bongino wrote: "We will own the Libs today, we will own the Libs tomorrow, we will own the Libs next month, and next year. We will not be retreating or apologizing anymore."

To be sure, even an amoral bully like Trump deserves sympathy for contracting a dreaded disease that's already killed 200,000 of his fellow Americans. Anyone wishing for his suffering can't claim any moral high ground.

But in a roundup of "liberal ghouls"' tweets on his site, Bongino conflates some truly vicious comments from partisan activists with reasonable and fact-based tweets such as NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla saying, "After months of publicly rejecting the advice of his own medical experts, President Trump has fallen victim to his own false narrative around the risks of the coronavirus."

That's the crucial distinction.

Trump mocks Klobuchar choking
Trump mocks democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar as he speaks to supporters on February 20.

It is completely appropriate and relevant to point out that Trump contracted a disease whose lethality he willfully lied to the American public about. He also personally made mask-wearing the dumbest culture-war battle of our time.

And even after tepidly walking back his mask skepticism over the summer, he mocked Biden at this week's debate for often he wears masks:

"I don't wear face masks like him. Every time you see him he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away ... and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."

At that same debate on Tuesday, Trump's guests were offered surgical masks by Cleveland Clinic doctors. They refused.

Now that Trump, Melania, White House senior adviser Hope Hicks, and Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel have all tested positive for COVID-19, perhaps the president and his supporters will at last take the pandemic seriously and engage in very simple and easy preventative measures.

These would include wearing masks, discouraging large crowds, and eschewing the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories that misinform millions of people who hang on the president's every word.

While it's unkind and inhumane to take delight in another person's suffering, there's not a thing wrong with criticizing Trump's handling of the virus and saying that in some ways he brought this on himself.

Trumpists who've luxuriated in the president's cruelty should recognize the difference.

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