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Fact check: Trump says his coronavirus deception was Churchillian. Churchill scholars say he's wrong

September 13, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

President Donald Trump argued Thursday that his decision to mislead Americans about the severity of the coronavirus threat wasn't just the right thing to do -- it was positively Churchillian.

"As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II: Keep Calm and Carry On. That's what I did," Trump said.

Trump likened his deliberate minimization of the coronavirus problem, in what he said was an attempt to keep people calm, to Churchill's communications approach during the Nazi bombing of the United Kingdom.

Steven Fielding, a University of Nottingham political history professor and co-author of a book on the mythology around Churchill, said that "Trump is slightly right," given the censorship system, "but essentially wrong and self-serving," noting that when Britain faced the threat of invasion in 1940, "Churchill did not pretend things were other than they were. "

One historian, Andrew Roberts, a visiting professor at King's College London and the author of an acclaimed 2018 biography of Churchill, said Trump's comments were "generally correct," since "Churchill did advocate calmness during the Blitz" and since there are "dozens of examples" of Churchill hiding bad news during the war.

Trump said Churchill "would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak. "

The "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster that has become popular in recent years was created during the tenure of Churchill's predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, but it was not actually issued -- because of internal concerns that it "seriously misjudged the mood of the British people," said Fielding, or "because it was thought to be patronising towards the public," said Richard Overy, a University of Exeter history professor who has written widely on the air war during World War II.

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