(CNN)Hours after President Donald Trump announced that he and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, had tested positive for Covid-19, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler decided that the world needed to hear her take on the matter.
“Remember: China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS,” she tweeted just after 9 a.m. ET on Friday morning. “WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”
Which is, well, something.
A straight reading of Loeffler’s tweet seems to suggest that she believes that China (or the Chinese government?) “gave this virus” to the President and first lady. Which, huge if true! The thing is, of course, that Loeffler knows it’s not true.
It’s not clear yet exactly how Trump was infected. We do know he was closely exposed to top aide Hope Hicks, who tested positive earlier on Thursday.
What Loeffler is trying to do here is pretty damn transparent. Echoing Trump himself in blaming China for not stopping the virus — though it’s clear the Chinese government’s early response to the outbreak raises deeply troubling questions for the entire world in terms of transparency — Loeffler is trying to turn the President’s positive test into an issue by which she can demonstrate her tough stance on China to potential voters. And to float a conspiracy theory — did China infect the President?!?!?! — that she knows will find purchase with some chunk of the most pro-Trump voters. At the very least, it’s a deliberate use of absurd hyperbole to make a point.
Loeffler, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the seat of then-Sen. Johnny Isakson in late 2019, has struggled through controversy after controversy in her first year in office and now faces a difficult race on November 3. Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, Trump’s favored pick for the appointment, have been savaging one another for months as each seeks to secure a place in the likely January runoff. (Because the Loeffler race is a special election for the two years remaining on Isakson’s term, all candidates, regardless of party, run together in November. If no one gets 50% of the vote, the two top vote-getters advance to the runoff.)
Loeffler’s strategy to make the runoff has been to out-Trump Trump. She has openly feuded with members of the WNBA team she owns — the Atlanta Dream — over the Black Lives Matter movement. She has attacked the media at every turn for allegedly being out to get her. She is running ads in Georgia in which she claims to be “more conservative than Attila the Hun.”
This tweet then is in keeping with that strategy. Why not suggest that China not only didn’t do enough to limit the spread of the disease in the spring but also “gave this virus” to Trump? After all, if Trump’s takeover and transformation of the Republican Party over the past five years has proven anything, it’s that there is no “too far” when it comes to the President’s most ardent backers. Nothing too outlandish, nothing too over-the-top. And as for facts? Well, those are for other people.
What Loeffler did with her Friday morning tweet is, of course, incredibly irresponsible. Hyperbolically floating the idea that China personally got Trump and the first lady sick with absolutely no proof isn’t the sort of thing any of us should do — much less a sitting United States senator.
But Loeffler did it anyway. Because she thinks it’s good politics. Which leaves me speechless.