Very little is certain about President Donald J. Trump’s battles with COVID-19, after he tested positive for the coronavirus last week. In fact, even the date he contracted it is in dispute, among other details. Conspiracy theories are swirling about how sick he is, which drugs he’s taking, if he’s even fit to continue performing the most powerful job on earth, and if steroids were to blame for that early morning all-caps tweet-storm . So when he (prematurely!) left Walter Reed Medical Center, in which he’s resided since Friday, returning home to the White House, his attempts to look healthy and back to normal didn’t go over well with everyone.
Upon returning via helicopter to the White House, Trump paused on the balcony for a dramatic photo op. He even removed his mask, despite still being very much infected with a highly contagious disease. Trump went on to record a video, in which he repeated his highly controversial statement that people shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19, despite the nearly 210,000 deaths in the United States alone, with no end in sight. But right before he did that, he stood there silently, not looking all too well.
Trump looks like he is gasping for air pic.twitter.com/4k2v4Jxlir
— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) October 5, 2020
Puffier and somehow more orange than before, Trump was also gasping rather heavily, as though winded — as though he was very much in the throes of a disease that especially affects people his age. Maybe he just hadn’t gotten much exercise after three days in a hospital? Or maybe he’s not as well as he let on. In any case, the clip did not inspire confidence.
Gasping for air. And credibility. pic.twitter.com/1pDvaYcAbj
— Ken Jeong (@kenjeong) October 6, 2020
Trump looks like a goldfish that fell out of the fishbowl onto the floor, gasping for breath. pic.twitter.com/aO2GS79ZiL
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) October 5, 2020
This is why Gasping is trending pic.twitter.com/vYBbh0u4jr
— Ben Meiselas (@meiselasb) October 6, 2020
Trump climbs a few steps to the White House, takes off his mask and then is visibly gasping and having diffulty breathing while he tries to wave and pretend everything is fine. pic.twitter.com/VXxSh1BNuO
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) October 6, 2020
People had some theories.
Gasping for air, panicked, should be in the hospital, but he’s desperate.
His White House Is infected, campaign in shambles. He’s got a $415 mill debt due to unfriendly people. And he’s facing prison when he leaves office. Keep pumping the steroids.
— W Smith Ω 🧢 Trump Is America's #1 Threat. (@WesSmith123) October 6, 2020
This is why he left the hospital when he is literally gasping for air btw. Fascists gonna fascist. https://t.co/OaaDxZEZbP
— 🌹🌽Erica, the white trash socialist🌽🌹™️ (@herosnvrdie69) October 6, 2020
People who survived COVID-19 could relate.
As a Covid survivor, I remember that gasp for air. I couldn't complete sentences without running gasping for air.
— Yarnie 🌹 (@TweetingYarnie) October 6, 2020
Others were reminded of certain dictatorships.
“This is a Mussolini moment. Donald Trump who looks like he has makeup on which means someone had to get close enough to make up his face with his favorite orange patina” pic.twitter.com/2eRdjPp6q3
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 5, 2020
Maybe Trump should take it easy. He’s visibly gasping for air after climbing stairs and posturing like Putin.
COVID ain’t no joke.
— Justin L. Hunte 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@TheCompanyMan) October 6, 2020
Trump standing on a balcony for a photo-op with a contagious disease that's killed 210,000 people, gasping for breath, is so banana republic I can't believe what I'm seeing.
— digby (@digby56) October 5, 2020
Still others saw parallels with other Trump-era news items.
After seeing him gasping for air on the steps of the WH
I couldn't help but wonder about the irony
What if his last words were
I CAN'T BREATHE?
— Randy McKenna (@McPhoto55) October 6, 2020
And there were jokes.
If you’re worried about Donald Trump gasping for air, don’t think of his lungs as half empty. Think of them as half full.
— Middle Age Riot (@middleageriot) October 6, 2020
‘Gasping’ is trending and he’s gonna see it and get mad and keep trying to prove us wrong.
If we play our cards right, we might be able to bully him into carrying a bunch of bowling balls or trying to do jumping jacks. https://t.co/h7lslkSjMQ
— Daniel Kibblesmith (@kibblesmith) October 6, 2020
And there were people pointing out that, were Biden gasping like this, Trump would pounce.