It turns out President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, may have been spreading more than just election lies around America lately. Trump confirmed over the weekend that Giuliani has contracted the coronavirus, followed by reports that he has been hospitalized. Anyone with this illness deserves sympathy, but Giuliani's crowded, reckless public appearances in his campaign to overturn the presidential election result are examples of exactly what not to do in a pandemic. Already, the Arizona Legislature has to shut down for a week thanks to this spreader of viral lies — and, now, possibly, of a literal virus.
Giuliani has been the point man for Trump's promotion of the lie that the Nov. 3 election was stolen from him by mass voter fraud. No evidence whatsoever has surfaced to cast doubt on President-elect Joe Biden's victory by more than 7 million ballots nationally and a substantial Electoral College majority. Giuliani's wild, vague conspiracy theories have been tossed out by one judge after another in state after state — with the judges repeatedly citing a lack of evidence.
Between wasting the courts' time, Giuliani has been foisting lies in crowded news conferences and privately haranguing Republican state legislators in meetings around the country, urging them to ignore their own voters and anoint Trump the victor.
It was one of those meetings — a maskless, 10-hour gathering in a Phoenix hotel ballroom a week ago with more than a dozen current and future Republican Arizona lawmakers — that has now prompted that state to shut down its legislature for a week as a precaution. Given Giuliani's hectic national schedule of conspiracy-mongering lately, and the many media images of him in crowded settings with legislators and others, additional states may end up having to follow suit.
The point here isn't schadenfreude — the German word for pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. Every new infection in this pandemic adds to what has become a human tragedy on a rare scale and a failure of American politics virtually without modern precedent.
The point is that too many Americans have been misled by an even bigger lie than Trump's post-election follies: that the virus is either a hoax or is overblown. It's neither — as Giuliani's own illness should attest. What, exactly, would be the strategic advantage of making up a lie that so clearly exposes the destructive carelessness of the president's lawyer?
With infections on the rise around America and the holiday season sure to make it worse, all Americans — Trump's followers, especially — must reconsider dismissive attitudes about masks and social distancing. Giuliani's voter-fraud case is an obvious sham, but his illness is deadly serious. This pandemic is real and should never have been exploited for political gain.
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