The Atlantic Politics Daily: An Alternate Coronavirus Reality

The president and his allies can still use his bully pulpit to drown information inconvenient to them. Plus: Is this the end of the line for Bernie Sanders?

It’s Wednesday, March 11. In today’s newsletter: What the coronavirus outbreak looks like in the alternate reality of the fever swamp. Plus: Nearing the end of the line for Bernie Sanders?


(Charlie Reidel / AP)

An Alternate Coronavirus Reality

While the coronavirus pandemic spreads, there’s a world of partisan media, conservative pundits, and digital propagandists hard at work, amplifying the more error-riddled parts of the president’s message, our deep-in-disinformation-land reporter McKay Coppins writes. The line: Pay no attention to the fake-news fearmongering about the coronavirus! It’s all political hype! Things are going great.

It doesn’t matter that fact-checkers, scientists, and the president’s own top medical experts are trying to correct some of the White House’s misinformation (whether the virus is contained, how deadly it is, and if enough tests are being run), McKay reports—the president and his allies can still use his bully pulpit to drown information inconvenient to them.

Trump has actually shown is that he doesn’t need to silence the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or censor the press to undermine politically inconvenient information about a public-health crisis—he can simply use his presidential bullhorn to drown it out.

Read the full story here.

—Christian Paz


1. “As Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro and Senator Marco Rubio both told me, the crisis is an alarming ‘wake-up call’ about American vulnerabilities in a globalized world.”

Countries around the world face the challenge of organizing a united response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, as the number of reported cases rockets in the U.S. But some in the president’s circle are treating the pandemic as a wake-up call, pushing for more aggressive “America First” policies, Uri Friedman reports.

2. “The intention, it seems, is to scare away media outlets from publishing opinion pieces that use particularly critical words to describe his relationship with Russia.”

Over the last few weeks, the president’s reelection team has sued CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post over opinion articles written about Trump and special counsel investigation’s findings on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president’s team will likely lose those cases, but the lawsuits’ primary purpose are is attempting to intimidate the press, two legal experts argue.

3. “But a number of prominent conservatives...are going with ‘Wuhan virus’, as if the deadly new pathogen were one more scourge to be blamed on the Chinese.”

While scientists and the international community have followed the formal name “COVID-19” to describe the disease caused by the new coronavirus, some leading right-wing politicians are trying to make the label “Wuhan virus” stick. That’s a foolish and offensive gesture, this professor of science writing argues.



Staying in the race doesn’t mean having a path to victory.

Senator Bernie Sanders announced today that he’d stay in the primary race, heading into Sunday’s 11th primary debate in Phoneix, Arizona. But his path to the nomination is effectively over, Ron Brownstein writes.

It’s now not a matter of if, but when, former Vice President Joe Biden secures the nomination: Victories in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, and Idaho replicated his triumphs on Super Tuesday. Biden pulled together (older) black voters, college-educated white voters, suburban voters, and even some blue-collar voters to secure majorities in three of the six states that voted last night.

Sanders now faces steep climbs in Florida, Ohio, and Illinois. “Only Arizona, with its large Latino population, seems like it could be hospitable to Sanders, but even there the most recent survey found Biden comfortably ahead,” Brownstein writes.

Read the full analysis here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Christian Paz, a Politics fellow, and edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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