Anyone who has spent even a few minutes watching Trump at one of his daily Coronavirus press briefing campaign rallies has undoubtedly heard Trump crow about his singular supposed achievement: courageously imposing a travel ban on passengers traveling from China.  It is his all-purpose answer to a question on any subject.  And in Trump’s telling, this was his Winston Churchill moment, as he imposed the travel ban before any other world leader and did so in the teeth of (nonexistent) domestic political opposition.

But as Kevin Drum helpfully reminds us, none of this is true.  Trump did not issue his “travel ban” until after all the major U.S. airliners had already adopted this policy.

Here is the New York Times on January 31:

Moving to counter the spreading coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration said Friday that it would bar entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China and put some American travelers under a quarantine as it declared a rare public health emergency. The temporary restrictions followed announcements by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines that they would suspend air service between the United States and China for several months.

Trump didn’t act until after the three biggest American airlines, along with nearly every other international airline, had already suspended flights to China. In other words, when it didn’t really matter anymore.  He didn’t have the guts to do it before then.

In addition, Trump was not the first world leader to enact a travel ban from China either.  As the WashPo debunks Trump’s claim, it “adds up to 38 countries taking action before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place.”  And the same article notes that the broad exemptions in Trump’s policy still allowed 40,000 people on direct fights from China to arrive just in the two months after the policy was enacted.

The Republicans’ spin machine will be in full mode to re-write reality in the run-up to the election, and this heroic travel ban myth has been the best thing that they could come up with so far.  Given how Trump falls back on this canard every time he is challenged, it is a real public service to point out that the whole argument is (yet again) an utter fiction.

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