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Trump turns coronavirus briefings into free advertising for his business allies

Trump has brought business leaders and CEOs into his daily coronavirus task force briefings to tout their companies.

By Emily Singer - March 31, 2020
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Donald Trump, Mike Lindell
My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, March 30, 2020, in Washington.

Donald Trump’s televised daily press briefings during the COVID-19 pandemic have not only served as de facto campaign rallies — they’ve also served as free advertising for business leaders and CEOs.

Since the early days of the outbreak, Trump has brought business leaders into the White House to bask in their praise of his response, and has given them airtime to promote their companies.

The trend was never more evident than on Monday, when Trump called MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — a vocal Trump supporter — to the podium.

Lindell praised Trump, saying, “God gave us grace on November 8, 2016, to change the course we were on.”

Lindell also snagged some good publicity, describing his company’s efforts to provide protective equipment to health care personnel and first responders across the country.

According to Politico, Trump wants Lindell to run for governor of Minnesota in 2022 — and while Trump did not mention a potential run at the press event, Lindell did end up speaking before an audience of millions that could help boost such an effort.

Trump has invited business leaders and CEOs from numerous other companies to White House roundtables and briefings, most of which are broadcast to the masses, allowing these companies time to try and earn a little goodwill with Americans at no cost to them.

On March 2, Trump brought in pharmaceutical company leaders to talk about their efforts to combat the pandemic with vaccines and possible treatments.

“Today, we are meeting with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies — the biggest in the world, most prestigious, the ones that get down to the bottom line very quickly — to discuss how the federal government can accelerate the development of vaccines and therapeutic treatments for the coronavirus,” Trump said at the briefing.

One of the CEOs at that meeting was ultimately fired from his job after Trump tried to lure his company into giving the United States exclusive rights to a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

On March 4, Trump brought in CEOs from some of the country’s largest airlines, which are suffering as stay-at-home orders have led to a steep decline in travel. Trump let those CEOs praise him before giving them the floor to talk up their companies’ efforts during the pandemic.

“We’re with the great airline executives of the world, really,” Trump said in introducing executives from American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue, among others. “These are the biggest and the best, and know the business better than anybody.”

On March 13, Trump held a news conference in the White House Rose Garden with the heads of CVS, Walmart, Target, and Walgreens, with whom the federal government has partnered to create COVID-19 testing sites.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” CVS CEO Thomas Moriarty said when given the floor. “We have been focused, since the start, on making sure our patients and the customers we serve have the information they need and the safety they need as well. We are committed to working with the administration and local public health officials to make this work as well. And thank you, sir, for the honor.”

Weeks later, those companies have only opened a handful of testing sites in their thousands of locations across the country.

And over the weekend, Trump had a meeting with “supply chain distributors” — ultimately giving UPS the ability to highlight the company’s efforts without paying a dime in advertising cost.

“What you didn’t know is that you have another branch of service. It’s the ‘Brown Army’ and we’re ready to deliver everywhere,” said Laura Lane, the company’s president of global public affairs.

The briefings are reaching millions each night, with Trump bragging about getting ratings as high as the season finale of the popular reality show franchise “The Bachelor.”

“Because the ‘Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, ‘Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

According to AdAge, in 2018, a 30-second spot on an episode of “The Bachelor” ran companies $139,797.

That means that just a few seconds of time at the podium at the White House could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to the companies Trump invites.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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