Trump's niece, Mary, says the 'horrible' COVID-19 situation in the US is due to how the president sees illness as 'a display of unforgivable weakness'

  • President Donald Trump's niece, Mary Trump, spoke to NPR's "All Things Considered" on Sunday following the news that her uncle had contracted COVID-19.
  • Mary Trump said her grandfather, Fred Trump Sr., had shaped her uncle's view on illness as "a display of unforgivable weakness." 
  • "That's why we're in the horrible place we're in," she said. "Because he cannot admit to the weakness of being ill or of other people being ill." 
  • In her recent book, Trump wrote that Donald Trump derided her grandfather as he was succumbing to Alzheimer's, and went to the movies while Mary's father died alone in the hospital.
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As President Donald Trump battled the coronavirus in the hospital, his niece told NPR's "All Things Considered" on Sunday he was raised to view illness as a weakness and that's what influenced his handling of the pandemic.

Mary Trump, who recently wrote a critical book about her "dangerous" uncle and their family, said the president's view on illness was influenced by his father, Fred Trump Sr., who was rarely unwell and found it hard to sympathize with relatives when they got sick. 

"It was unacceptable and a display of unforgivable weakness," Mary Trump said.

When asked if this view of illness influenced the president's response to the pandemic, and his own fight with the coronavirus, Mary Trump said: "Of course."

"That's why we're in the horrible place we're in. Because he cannot admit to the weakness of being ill or of other people being ill," she said.

On Sunday, Donald Trump left Walter Reed medical center — where he is being treated — to "pay a little surprise visit to some of the patriots we have out on the street," as he described it. COVID-19 is highly contagious and medical experts slammed his willingness to expose Secret Service agents to his illness.

On NPR, Mary Trump said that part of her grandfather's view of illness was shaped by his belief in Norman Vincent Peale's 1952 self-help book "The Power of Positive Thinking." She says her grandfather took this idea to "an extreme level" which made him avoid anything remotely negative, including someone being physically ill.

She cited her grandmother's struggle with osteoporosis as an example.

"So my grandmother, with her osteoporosis, would come home from the hospital and need more care and physical therapy and my grandfather was unable to tolerate it," she said.

"He'd be in the room with her and if she started showing she was in physical pain he would say: 'Everything's great, everything's great,' and he'd leave the room."

In her recently-published book, "Too Much and Never Enough," Trump included more anecdotes on how her family dealt with illness.

When her father, who was an alcoholic, was on his deathbed in 1981, she says no member of the family was by his side. She wrote that after he was hospitalized, her grandparents stayed at home and waited for news while Donald Trump went to the movies with one of his sisters. Her father, Fred Trump Jr., died alone in the hospital aged 42.

Trump also said that when her grandfather started succumbing to Alzheimer's disease in the 1990s, Donald  "dismissed and derided" him. 

After her grandfather passed away, Donald and two of his siblings cut Mary and her brother off the family's health insurance plan when they contested the will. At the time, Mary's brother had just welcomed a baby boy with serious health issues.

Donald Trump told Axios in June that Mary's claim about his treatment of his father was "a disgraceful thing to say." In August, he also called his niece's book "unstable" and said she was "rightfully shunned, scorned, and mocked" all her life.

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