Jason Miller a senior campaign adviser and chief spokesperson at Donald Trump‘s reelection campaign, did not discredit the president’s groundless claims about U.S. health professionals inflating COVID-19 deaths—even when pressed continuously.
“Why does the president repeatedly attack doctors…working on the front lines, saying they’re inflating COVID numbers?” asked George Stephanopoulos, the host of ABC’s This Week, during an interview with Miller on Sunday morning. The host’s question followed months of similar comments from Trump’s critics across political and public health spheres.
As the U.S. grapples with consequences of an ongoing pandemic, many have denounced the president’s attempts to contradict scientific reports about COVID-19, usually with unsubstantiated claims that undermine expert’s recommendations and encourage the public to doubt prevailing health advice.
“I don’t think he was attacking anybody at all,” Miller told Stephanopoulos on Sunday, referencing Trump’s remarks at a campaign rally in Waterford Township, Michigan, on Friday. Speaking to a crowd of supporters, the president said that doctors “get more money if somebody dies” from COVID-19.
“I think he was talking about how most Americans want to safely and securely reopen the country, get back to work, get back to life as normal,” Miller continued, before the morning news program’s host cut in to remind him that “we all just saw” Trump air his claims during the Friday campaign event.
“He was talking about doctors inflating COVID deaths for money,” Stephanopoulous said, reiterating the president’s remarks to rally attendees. Trump’s adviser said he was “not going to get into the billing aspects” of COVID-19 medical treatments, but mentioned unspecified reports “that have raised issues…regarding billing and things like that.”
Anita Dunn, the chief strategist for Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign, told Stephanopoulos she was “astonished” by Miller’s failure to defend health care workers during a subsequent appearance on ABC’s This Week Sunday morning.
Trump’s claim about health professionals reaping financial benefits from COVID-19 falsehoods prompted a wave of backlash, with numerous voices pointing to an absence of evidence backing his remarks.
In a statement released after the Michigan rally, the American Medical Association (AMA) additionally noted that “our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work towards reducing the spread of #COVID19.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, highlighted the dangers of spreading incorrect information about COVID-19 when cases, hospitalizations and deaths are surging across the U.S. Discussing Trump’s influence over Wisconsin resident’s approach to virus mitigation on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Evers said: “Some people aren’t [taking steps to protect their health] because they’re listening to Donald Trump. Wear a mask, stay socially distant, all the stuff that we know works.”
Newsweek reached out to the Trump campaign for further comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication.