By this point, you’d think there was nothing left Donald Trump could say that would be more distasteful than any of his previous remarks.
But Trump being Trump, he has to go bigger and better (read: even more casually offensive) than ever before.
He’s now caused widespread ire by an off-script ramble about healthcare workers, in which he described them “running into death” like “soldiers” and called it “beautiful”.
The comments were made during a speech at a medical equipment distribution centre in Pennsylvania, as Trump announced expanding the Strategic National Stockpile to include 90-days worth of testing equipment and medication after it was early exhausted.
Beginning by calling nurses and doctors “healthcare warriors”, the speech quickly went south.
The moment this terrible virus reached our shores, each of you has worked relentlessly to get the vital supplies to our healthcare warriors.
And they are warriors aren't they, when you see them going into those hospitals and they're putting the stuff that you deliver, but they're wrapping themselves, and the doors are opening, and they're going through the doors, and they're not even ready to go through those doors, they probably shouldn't, but they can't get there fast enough, and they're running into death just like soldiers run into bullets in a true sense.
I see that with the doctors and the nurses and so many of the people that go into those hospitals, it's incredible to see, it's a beautiful thing to see.
Attempts to draw parallels between healthcare workers and military narratives, such as calling them ‘heroes’ have drawn criticism in recent weeks.
A mental health guide issued by the European Health Journal advised that calling UK NHS staff “heroes” or “angels” could cause severe psychological strain.
“The ‘hero’ and ‘angel’ tropes which we see bandied about are also highly problematic because they make it look as if people signed up to die, like a hero does, but they didn’t,” said Dr Esther Murray, who contributed to the guide.
It also makes it harder for NHS staff to talk about how they really feel because opinions get polarised – are you a hero or a coward?
A lot of staff feel like cowards but they are not at all, they’re just quite justifiably frightened and angry.
American commentators have also voiced concern at using war metaphors to describe the experience of healthcare workers, with writer Talia Lavin saying “The rhetoric of heroism implies that those forced needlessly to labor unprotected amidst threat to their lives must be grateful for a chance at martyrdom."
"The rhetoric of heroism—with its encouragement of sacrifice for the fatherland—obscures the fact that so much of this suffering is unnecessary”.
Trump’s most recent comments sparked anger.
Theresa Brown, a clinical nurse, expressed horror at Trump’s use of “beautiful”.
Others were quick to remind people of Trump’s previous comments regarding healthcare workers.
An important reminder: healthcare workers are not soldiers. They are not trained to face death themselves. Their job is to help sick people, armed with the correct equipment.
There should be no need to talk of “sacrifice” because our healthcare workers shouldn’t be having to make one.