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Trump’s Covid News Meets a Landscape Primed for Mistrust

While the White House and its political advisers might “try to talk this down” for political reasons, Mr. Wallace said, viewers should remember that the coronavirus is an unpredictable disease and that Dr. Atlas has no idea what will happen. “He can’t know, because the president is in the earliest stages of this,” Mr. Wallace said.

Indeed, several hours later, the White House announced that Mr. Trump would be taken to Walter Reed hospital.

Many presidents have downplayed illnesses in the past, or hidden them from the public altogether. This spring, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain contracted Covid and spent more than a week declaring he had mild symptoms, even as his fever spiked. A few days after he recorded a video saying “I’m feeling better,” he was admitted to intensive care, put on oxygen, and reportedly came close to dying. He recovered, but acknowledged later that he had been far sicker than he let on.

It should not come as terribly surprising that a president who rose to fame — in business, on TV and in politics — on an archipelago of mistruths and exaggerations would find himself facing a public skeptical of his account of his own health, especially about a virus whose seriousness he has been dismissing for many months. During Tuesday’s debate, he mocked former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, for wearing a mask.

“Donald Trump’s whole reason for being within the Republican Party was he was going to be the meanest to the liberals, meanest to the media, meanest to the people that you hate,” said Tim Miller, a veteran of the Republican National Committee and Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign who is now working to defeat Mr. Trump.

It makes a certain amount of sense, Mr. Miller added, that this news is “met with people distrusting him and feeling anger and bitterness toward him.”

In the immediate aftermath of the president’s disclosure, even generally sober-minded officials became armchair conspiracy theorists.

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