ORLANDO — President Trump blamed Monday’s collapse of the stock markets on falling oil prices and the news media, again dismissing the widening fear over coronavirus as he faced one of the most rattling days of his presidency.
Mr. Trump, arriving in Orlando on Monday morning for a campaign fund-raiser after spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, did not respond to reporters who shouted questions about the tumbling markets, but he made his views known via his Twitter account.
“Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil,” he wrote while Air Force One was landing in Orlando. “That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!”
He sought to cast the decline in oil prices in positive terms. “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!” he wrote.
As for the coronavirus, he tried to reassure Americans by once again emphasizing that it remained a relatively low risk for most. “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” he wrote. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
Mr. Trump has been accused of underplaying the danger of the virus even as his administration has imposed travel restrictions and struggled to expand the distribution of testing kits. In private, the president has complained that his own health secretary was being “alarmist,” but fear over the virus has begun to ripple through the economy and society in remarkable ways, as organizations cancel conventions and travel, schools and universities begin to cancel in-person classes and airlines and hotels weigh significant layoffs.
The impact on American life was evident even in Mr. Trump’s own schedule. In addition to the closed-door fund-raiser, he had originally been slated to address a health care conference in Orlando on Monday but it was canceled because of fear of coronavirus.
The president’s mood appeared grim Monday morning as he left Palm Beach, swiftly boarding Air Force One without waiting for news photographers to arrive on the tarmac below the stairs to take his picture as he typically does. Arriving in Orlando, he made a point of shaking hands with Gov. Ron DeSantis and then briefly shaking hands with a crowd of supporters who had gathered.