Reason Roundup

Conspiracy Theories Abound After Trump Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Plus: A wrongly convicted woman is freed after 17 years, a federal policing commission is ruled unlawful, and more...


President Donald Trump's Thursday night announcement that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 has kicked up a range of realistically troubling scenarios as well as a host of conspiracy theories. The most prevalent of the latter seems to be the idea that the Trumps don't really have the new coronavirus and the president's announcement is some sort of cynical election ploy.

It would be a strange one, considering the negative toll that any perception of illness can have on a candidate. What could Trump possibly gain by having people think he's sick?

Some have suggested that Trump could falsely claim to have the illness but not to get very sick from it in order to bolster his claims that COVID-19 isn't all that serious. Others call Trump's announcement a ploy to portray the president as strong and healthy when he shakes the disease.

The timing seems off for such antics, however, as a lot of Americans are already casting their ballots. If Trump was going to fake COVID-19 and then quickly "recover" as some sort of campaign strategy, this would seem an especially stupid time to do so.

"The galaxy brain take is that Trump is faking COVID to get out of the debates or distract from the tax stuff," tweeted author Mike Rothschild, who is writing a book about QAnon. "But his image depends on being a bull god street fighter Adonis who outworks men half his age. He wouldn't pretend to be sick and weak. If anything, he'd cover it up."

Considering how cavalier the Trump administration has been about masks and other measures meant to contain the coronavirus' spread, it shouldn't take a conspiracy theory to explain how we got here.

"The President's infection is the predictable outcome of the same malignant irresponsibility he has been modeling for his followers from the beginning of all this," writer Daniel Summers commented. "Regardless, I wish him the same recovery from illness I'd wish for anyone else."

Donald and Melania Trump may have caught COVID-19 from advisor Hope Hicks, who has also tested positive for the disease and was aboard Air Force One with the president on Wednesday. The situation tidily and unfortunately highlights how precarious COVID-19 test results and safety schemes based on them can be.

"Hicks tested negative for COVID-19 Wednesday morning, so she boarded AF1," according to CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang. "She developed symptoms during the day and received a second test, which came back positive. The White House knew about this Wed evening but Trump still had a fundraiser Thursday."

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative for the virus, according to Pence's press secretary:


• Congress is dragging tech leaders back for a repeat performance of Bipartisan Toughness on Big Tech.

• The House of Representatives passed the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 spending bill discussed here yesterday.

• "A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban against many of the biggest U.S. companies bringing in foreign workers under H-1B and other employment-based visas," reports The Wall Street Journal.

• Joe Biden is "a suggestion imbued with an infinite number of possibilities. He can be anything you want," writes David Harsanyi.

• New York's silly "pink tax" prohibition goes into effect today.

• A federal court ruled that "a national commission on policing launched earlier this year by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr has violated federal law by seating only people in law enforcement and failing to include members with different perspectives such as civil rights activists, defense attorneys or mental health professionals," The Washington Post reports.

• A Massachusetts woman has been freed after spending 17 years in prison for a wrongful conviction of murdering her parents. "Frances Choy was just 17 when she was charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson of a dwelling after a house fire at her Brockton, Massachusetts home killed her parents, Jimmy and Ann Trahn Choy," notes Yahoo News. "This month, her charges were vacated after the discovery of new evidence, including racist emails between the two prosecutors indicated they were 'biased against Asians.'"