NEW YORK (AP) – Do you remember the presidential debate? The revelation about how much President Donald Trump pays in taxes? The appointment of a new judge to the US Supreme Court?
They all happened in the past week. Then, just as quickly, they faded into memory with the revelation on Friday that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. News, substantial news, rushes by at the speed of light.
Memory more than full.
“I don’t know how many writers who worked on political melodramas just deleted their files and opened a bottle of Scotch,” said journalist Jeff Greenfield.
The coronavirus story unfolded shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday when Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News White House reporter, tweeted that sources had told her that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest aides, had tested positive. Trump confirmed the news in a tweet two and a half hours later, adding that he and First Lady Melania Trump were being tested and awaiting the results in quarantine.
Then, at 12:54 p.m. Eastern, the president tweeted that they were both positive.
“It’s a lot to wake up to,” said Savannah Guthrie at the top of NBC’s “Today” show for those who were asleep when the news hit.
Nate Silver, ABC’s political forecasting guru, tweeted shortly after the news broke, “Don’t know what to say.” Seven hours later he had his answer: a shrug of the back emoji.
The story unleashed, not unexpectedly, raw political feelings on the air.
“This is awful,” said Nia-Malika Henderson on CNN. ‘This is awful. This is tragic. And the president has so much responsibility for this, given the way he has talked about wearing masks. “
Fox News Channel’s Pete Hegseth predicted that Trump haters would surface soon.
“Indicate the wild conspiracy theories at this point,” he said. “Give the rabbit tracks, the vitriol and the rabid speculation. This has nothing to do with the interests of the president, the first lady or the rest of the country.”
Some of those bizarre theories flourished online.
But initially, at least, there was enough legitimate news for reporters to chase. When did the president know his top assistant was sick? How many people did he come into contact with knowing there was potential danger? Are reporters who attended a White House newsletter on Thursday at risk?
ABC’s hiring of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an analyst paid off when he told a “Good Morning America” audience that he had been in the White House for several days until Tuesday preparing for the debate and that none of Trump’s aides wore masks. Christie looked shocked and was preparing for a test herself.
Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace, who moderated the Trump-Biden debate in Cleveland on Wednesday night, said he didn’t get any closer to Trump than it appeared on television, but that Biden quietly said something to him afterward.
Wallace and others noted that Trump aides and family attending the debate did not wear masks, contrary to the rules set prior to the debate, and dismissed a doctor who tried to give them masks if they didn’t have one. The Biden team wore them.
Wallace also had harsh words for Scott Atlas, a former Fox guest who has recently had the president’s ear with advice on coronavirus policy.
“Listen to the independent people who don’t have a political ax,” said Wallace. “And I honestly don’t think Scott Atlas is one of those people.”
On Friday, Twitter was a killer of announcements about people testing positive (like Ronna McDaniel, chairman of the Republican National Committee) and negative (Democratic opponent Joe Biden and his wife, Jill).
It was all a bit tiring. “The last day and a half has been quite a month,” tweeted Paul Farhi of the Washington Post.
Greenfield, who is 77, said he cannot remember a time when such important news came so quickly and furiously. It makes Bob Woodward’s book about the Trump administration and the revelations in it feel like ancient history.
Greenfield recommends that people take some time off from social media and television. Read a book. Watch some sports.
“You may want to go for a walk,” he said. “But by the time you get back, the asteroid may have hit or the aliens have landed and you have a whole new story.”