NEW YORK (AP) — Remember the presidential debate? The revelation about how much President Donald Trump pays in taxes? The nomination of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice?
They all happened within the past week. Then, just as quickly, they receded into memory with the revelation Friday that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. News, substantial news, is rushing by at the speed of light.
Memory more than full.
“I don’t know how many writers who were working on political melodramas have just deleted their files and opened up a bottle of Scotch,” said veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield.
Seventeen hours after the world learned of the president’s diagnosis, television pictures showed the president walking toward the Marine One helicopter, before it took off to take him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Minutes after, he tweeted out a video image thanking people for their concern.
“I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” he said.
The hospital trip increased speculation about how sick the president was. CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta called it “a bit unsettling.”
Meanwhile, the White House Correspondents Association said three journalists there tested positive for COVID on Friday. All had covered White House events last weekend. The correspondents association asked all its members who are not assigned to small pools to follow the president and who don’t have enclosed workplaces to work from home.
The coronavirus story unfurled shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern 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 that news in a tweet two and half hours later, adding that he and First Lady Melania Trump were being tested and awaiting the results in quarantine.
Then, at 12:54 a.m. Eastern, the president tweeted that both of them were positive.
“It’s a lot to wake up to,” Savannah Guthrie said at the top of NBC’s “Today” show for those who were asleep when the news hit.
There were plenty of angles for reporters to chase, and questions were raised about why Trump went to a fundraiser Thursday when he knew Hicks was sick. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was asked pointedly why he was not wearing a mask when he briefed reporters Friday afternoon.
ABC’s hiring of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an analyst paid dividends, as he told a “Good Morning America” audience that he had been at the White House for several days until Tuesday for debate preparation and that none of Trump’s aides were wearing masks. Looking shaken, Christie was preparing for a test himself.
Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace, who moderated Tuesday night’s Trump-Biden debate in Cleveland, said that he got no closer to Trump than it appeared on television. He appeared on the network several time Friday for updates, saying the lesson of the day is “wear the damn mask.”
Wallace also had harsh words for Scott Atlas, a former Fox guest who lately has had the president’s ear offering advice on coronavirus policy.
“Listen to the independent people who do not have a political axe to grind,” Wallace said. “And I frankly don’t think Scott Atlas is one of those people.”
Through much of Friday, Twitter was a whack-a-mole of announcements about people testing positive (like Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee) and negative (Democratic opponent Joe Biden and his wife, Jill).
It was all a little exhausting. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said it felt like he had been through a “newsquake.”
“I don’t recall any week where there have been this many important stories in the same week, not since World War II,” he said. Anytime a narrative sets in, “boom, something comes in and changes the subject.”
Greenfield, who is 77, said he can’t remember a time when such major news has come so fast and furiously. It makes Bob Woodward’s book about the Trump administration, and the revelations therein, feel like ancient history.