President Donald Trump returned to form on Thursday morning, engaging in a freewheeling, 55-minute interview on Fox Business in which he made bold claims about his health and coronavirus in general just days after announcing he had contracted the deadly disease.
The president, his voice steady but slightly raspy, even boasted that he was in shape to stage one of his marathon political rallies — if he was allowed to hold one.
“First of all, I think I’m better, to a point where I’d love to do a rally tonight,” Trump said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo. “I wanted to do one last night,” he said.
Trump, who at 74 years and clinically obese is at an elevated risk of serious complications from Covid-19, has repeatedly said he feels better than he has in 20 years. On Thursday, he said he feels “perfect” and “there’s nothing wrong.”
Using a joking tone, he claimed he was a “perfect physical specimen, adding “I’m lucky in that way.”
Trump has tried to project a sense that he has conquered the virus and to imbue a sense of normalcy that has unmistakably altered operations at the White House. The president on Wednesday resumed working out of the Oval Office, just two days after returning from the hospital, though other parts of the White House were staffed with a skeleton crew and those visiting the president had to be decked out in PPE.
“You catch this thing. A lot of people caught it,” Trump said of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and sickened 7.5 million.
The president also had the benefit of a level of care far and away beyond what the typical American could expect. The New York Times estimated that the president’s care, if given to a lay person, would have carried a six-figure price tag.
Trump also put heavy stock in the idea that he is now immune to the virus, which scientists say is unlikely at this point in the course of his infection.
“Remember this, when you catch it — you get better, and then you’re immune, you know?” Trump said. “As soon as everything goes away, for me, you’re immune."
Trump, who announced he tested positive for the disease less than a week ago, said he does not believe he is still contagious.
It is difficult to pin down where the president is on the virus’ progression, as the White House and Trump’s doctors have repeatedly refused to say when he last tested negative. CDC guidelines state that those with a mild to moderate case of Covid-19 can remain infectious for 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and twice that for people with more serious cases. Trump has received treatments generally reserved for severe or critical cases, including the steroid dexamethasone.
“I don’t think I’m contagious at all,” Trump said, while nonetheless noting “we still have to wait.”
Trump downplayed the risk of spreading the virus at a rally, saying that he is stationed far away from anyone else while he is speaking.
However, that does not factor in traveling to and from these events, and senior aide Hope Hicks tested positive for Covid-19 — the first sign of an outbreak that now extends to roughly three dozen people — after accompanying Trump to a rally in Minnesota.
In addition to an aggressive treatment that included multiple experimental drugs, the president was hospitalized for over three days and administered multiple rounds of supplemental oxygen since his positive diagnosis.
During a video message Wednesday prior to the night’s vice presidential debate, Trump likened his infection to a “blessing from God.”
“I feel great. I feel, like, perfect,” Trump said. “I think it was a blessing from God that I caught it, I think it was a blessing in disguise.”
Trump has also touted an experimental antibody cocktail produced by the New York-based company Regeneron, going so far as to falsely assert it’s a “cure” for the disease.
Trump’s remarks about his condition were just one facet of news that came out of the morning interview. He also said “there would be a chance” he contracted the disease from an event honoring Gold Star family members whose loved ones have died in the line of duty.
"They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me. And they do,” Trump said. “And, frankly, I’m not telling them to back up. I’m not doing it."
The president also said that he would not participate in next week’s second presidential debate after the independent commission that oversees them said it would do so in a virtual format in response to the risk of spreading infection.
“I’m not going to waste my time on virtual debate,” Trump said. “That’s not what debating is all about.”
The president said doing so would be “ridiculous” as moderators would have the power to “cut you off whenever they want.”
The first presidential debate was mired in cross-talk and insults, with Trump fueling much of the disorder as he attempts to claw back into contention just four weeks out from Election Day.