Trump Death Clock seeks to bring ‘accountability for reckless leadership’

Trump Death Clock seeks to bring ‘accountability for reckless leadership’

A website by an independent film-maker tracks lives allegedly lost during the Covid-19 pandemic by the president’s own inept actions

Demonstrators protest on 23 April against the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersDemonstrators protest on 23 April against the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Donald Trump has been accused of personally causing the deaths of 40,000 Americans through his “reckless” handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, in a new website launched on Wednesday under the provocative title Trump Death Clock.

The website, created by independent film-maker Eugene Jarecki, is a conscious echo of the National Debt Clock which since 1989 has given a running score near Times Square in Manhattan of total US borrowing. The Trump Death Clock extends the idea dramatically by providing a tracker measured not in dollars but in lives allegedly lost by the president’s own inept actions.

“I am seeking accountability for reckless leadership,” Jarecki told the Guardian. “We have meticulously isolated just that portion of the US death toll where one can see a specific line between the president’s decisions and actions and the loss of life.”

The Trump Death Clock provides a bald tally of lives that it claims were needlessly lost to Covid-19 that ticks upwards in real time. At the time of reporting this article, it stood at 39,435 – laying responsibility for almost 40,000 American lives at the White House door.

The figure is in turn based upon the authoritative running tally of total deaths from Covid-19 compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. From its daily read-out of coronavirus fatalities, Jarecki’s team has created the Trump Death Clock through a simple mathematical calculation of 60% of total deaths from the disease in the US.

The 60% ratio used in the death clock was drawn from a study by two prominent epidemiologists, Britta Jewell of Imperial College, London, and Nicholas Jewell, a professor of biostatistics at UC Berkeley. Writing in the New York Times in April, they posited the theory that if Trump had introduced the White House social distancing guidelines not on 16 March but a week earlier on 9 March, a 60% reduction in the expected final death count could have resulted given the exponential spread of the virus.

That formula runs the risk of coming across as reductionist and motivated by political animus. But Jarecki, whose previous work in movies has focused on abuses in public life, insists that his clock is founded upon the credible scientific thinking of top public health experts and epidemiologists, and that it is conservative in its estimations.

“I believe we need a national measure of the cost of the recklessness of the president’s pandemic response,” Jarecki said. “He was advised multiple times by the intelligence services and his own public health experts of the significance of this pandemic and the need to take mitigating action, and yet those warnings were not acted upon.”

Even Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the US who has been central to the federal Covid-19 response, has publicly noted the cost in American lives of failing to lock down early on. “If you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” he told CNN.

Jarecki is already thinking about giving physical form to his Trump Death Clock following the example of the National Debt Clock. He told the Guardian that as he was developing his idea, associates encouraged him to create an actual physical tracker that might be placed in full public view in New York and other large cities across the country.

Trump has responded to criticism of his handling of the pandemic with volatility in the past. He has accused several reporters of being “nasty” and of peddling “fake news” after they questioned him during his daily White House coronavirus briefings.

Asked whether he was anxious about how Trump might respond to being directly accused of causing tens of thousands of deaths, Jarecki replied: “I can’t think about that. I feel I owe it to people who lost their lives to demand accountability and more responsible leadership going forward so that they did not die in vain.”

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By @edpilkington
Published onWed 6 May 2020 11.00 BST

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