The Republican National Convention offered Americans a picture Tuesday night of a compassionate White House in action. But not a lot was said about the biggest health crisis in a century that has killed more than 170,000 people in this country.
First lady Melania Trump wrapped up the evening with a speech from her redesigned Rose Garden, acknowledging to audience members — almost all without masks — that, “since March, our lives have changed drastically.” She also said her husband’s administration has been relentless in its effort to find a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. “Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic,” she said.
Before ending her address, she alluded to her husband’s brash reputation. “Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president,” she said. “Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking.”
Her speech didn’t leave much work for fact checkers, but other remarks from the president’s adult children, as well as the evening’s other speakers, did.
Our PolitiFact partners provided a detailed rundown on statements from Tuesday night. Here are some health care highlights:
The pandemic “was awful. Health and economic impacts were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere. But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively, with an extraordinary rescue for health and safety to successfully fight the coronavirus.”
—Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council
To hear chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow say it, the pandemic is in the rearview mirror. There are states, such as Texas and Florida, where a deadly surge has eased. Nationally, however, the death toll continues to climb.
Data from the COVID Tracking Project shows deaths topping 170,000. And the recent rise in deaths is only slightly less compared with the early months of the pandemic.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that the number of COVID deaths will exceed 300,000 by Dec. 1. That would be nearly double the deaths so far.
Kudlow offered an optimistic picture of the economic recovery and the growth to come, telling Americans to expect 20% growth in a “V-shaped recovery” in the second half of the year.
But much hinges on the course of the virus. Current trends show an ongoing threat to the prosperity Kudlow described.
“And if you believe in expanding quality and affordable health care, only President Trump, my father, signed Right to Try into law, the favored nations clause, and other actions to lower drug prices and keep Americans from getting ripped off.”
This is somewhat misleading. The Right to Try law that Trump signed in 2018 allows individuals with life-threatening conditions who have tried all approved treatment options and cannot participate in clinical trials to access unapproved treatments. It did not, however, lower drug prices.
Trump also signed an executive order on July 24, which he has referenced as the “favored nations clause,” that has not been put into action. Nor has the text of this executive order been made public, so the details of how it would be executed are unclear. The idea of the “favored nations” proposal is that the U.S. would pay similar prices as European countries do for some Medicare Part B physician-administered drugs. This proposal has been strongly opposed by drugmakers, and experts told us they were skeptical that it would be implemented.
While Trump has long talked about lowering drug prices as one of his top health care goals, he has made little progress in doing so, outside of issuing several executive orders that have yet to be enacted.
“Margaret Sanger was a racist who believed in eugenics. Her goal when founding Planned Parenthood was to eradicate minorities.”
—Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood worker
This statement is misleading. Sanger has been routinely criticized for supporting eugenics — the belief of improving the population by controlled breeding for desirable characteristics. But historians and scholars who have studied Sanger’s life say her opinions concerned public health and were not specific to race.
The basic concept that humanity could be improved by selective breeding was a firmly held belief by many in the years before World War II. Winston Churchill, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells all supported the eugenics movement. The philosophy fell out of favor after Nazis adopted eugenics to support exterminating non-Aryan races.
Still, Planned Parenthood recently announced it would remove Sanger’s name from its Manhattan Health Center because of her eugenics beliefs, and there is some disagreement about her views and whether they should be reevaluated amid protests against systemic racism and a pandemic that has disproportionately affected minorities.
Sanger was a birth control activist, which means she wanted women to be able to avoid unwanted pregnancies. The historical record shows she worked for women of all classes and races to have that choice.
Those who call Sanger a racist often cite her work on what was called the Negro Project, an effort that started in 1939 that brought birth control services (but not abortion) to Black communities in the South. Black leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, were members of its advisory council.
PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson, Amy Sherman, Samantha Putterman, Jon Greenberg, Miriam Valverde and KHN reporter Victoria Knight contributed to this report.