It didn’t take long for the conspiracy theories to start circulating once U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday night that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. The news came just two hours after the president initially tweeted that his senior counselor Hope Hicks had also tested positive for the virus. An all this is happening after the president spent months downplaying the severity of this global pandemic.
Maybe that’s why conspiracy theories have already spread far and wide over the internet in the hours since Trump announced his diagnosis. And the theories are already absolutely wild. Far right followers of QAnon, who believe the pandemic is a hoax meant to distract everyone from a made up pedophile ring operated by Satanic Democrats, are also thrilled because they believe the president’s COVID diagnosis is a cover to arrest Hillary Clinton, VICE reports.
Where did that interpretation come from? Well, it’s in the president’s tweet. After confirming his positive test result, Trump tweeted, “We will get through this TOGETHER!” But apparently QAnon followers read this as “To get her.” For them, the president’s plan to drain the swamp is finally in motion.
But QAnon isn't the only group spewing conspiracy theories: Others believe the president is "faking" his diagnosis, and for a number of reasons. Some say Trump is pretending to have COVID-19 to get out of any future debates, or as a distraction from his measly $750 tax payments, or even to distract from the release of secret tapes where Melania Trump criticized her husband's family separation policy.
But another camp of theorists, and with reason, think the president is faking his diagnosis so that he can brag about quickly recovering from a virus that “wasn’t so bad.” Again, this is a result of the president downplaying the pandemic for months, and also because he is experiencing just mild symptoms. One Twitter user wrote that Trump’s diagnosis offers him an opportunity to change the conversation “for two or three weeks. At which time, Trump can emerge hale and hearty and say that Covid barely laid a glove on him.”
And yet another crowd is questioning why the president would ever fake contracting the deadly virus at all. The Hoarse Whisperer wrote on Twitter that in Trump’s mind, being sick is a weakness. “He would never voluntarily make himself look weak,” they wrote, adding “His narcissism needs that ego fuel. He has it.”
But it’s not hard to understand why so many conspiracy theories have made the rounds in response to Trump’s announcement. The president has repeatedly lied about the coronavirus pandemic: that most cases are “totally harmless” and that it will simply disappear “like a miracle.” That, and his track record of lying about most other things make it hard for many to trust him.
Likewise, Trump himself is the largest driver of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, a study from researchers at Cornell University’s Alliance for Science found, with 38% of articles about the virus also mentioning the president’s false claims about it. Trump is “by far the largest single component of the infodemic,” the study notes, and by suggesting "cures like disinfectants and hydroxychloroquine, it's not much of a surprise that the greatest COVID-19 conspiracist is the president himself.