President Donald Trump got history wrong on multiple counts Monday when he claimed that the “1917” Spanish flu pandemic likely led to the end of World War II ― which began more than two decades later.
“The closest thing is in 1917, they say, the great pandemic. It certainly was a terrible thing where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million people,” Trump said during his White House press briefing. “Probably ended the Second World War, all the soldiers were sick.”
Leading up to that comment, Trump had been praising his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 160,000 people in the U.S., claiming without evidence that without his ban on foreign travelers, millions more would be dead.
The President says the “1917 pandemic” ended the Second World War pic.twitter.com/jSltuSYim2— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) August 10, 2020
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 overlapped with the final months of World War I, which is ostensibly what the president intended to refer to. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was first identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918 before spreading to an estimated 500 million people worldwide. It continued until the following year. The spread was likely exacerbated by the widespread deployment of troops, crowded wartime living conditions and other effects of the war, the CDC states.
World War II began in 1939.
Given the Trump campaign’s repeated efforts to frame presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as lacking mental acuity, Twitter users did not allow Trump’s gaffe to slide.
Critics, including Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub and conservative group The Lincoln Project joined the fray:
The President of the United States of America is the stupidest man in the world. https://t.co/O1CSD5eAIy— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) August 11, 2020
Trump: In 1917, the great pandemic, where they lost 50 to 100 million people, probably ended the Second World War.— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 10, 2020
1. The pandemic happened in 1918, not 1917.
2. About 37 million people died in WWI, not 50 to 100 million.
3. The Second World War ended in 1945, not in 1917. https://t.co/EEsnVUkXcE
A significant part of Trump’s (and the Trump campaign’s) message against Biden has been that Biden gets confused and makes speaking mistakes. https://t.co/pfNGzsQYt2— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 11, 2020
The president thinks the Spanish Flu probably ended World War Two (!) because “all the soldiers were sick.”— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 10, 2020
The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki fell 75 years ago yesterday, bringing a long and devastating war to a shattering, violent end.
Remember history. Don’t distort it.
By the way the 1918 flu pandemic started in 1918, not 1917.— The Lincoln Project 🏴☠️ (@ProjectLincoln) August 11, 2020
World War 2 ended in 1945.
And for some reason it's the Trump Campaign that's trying to run on mental fitness.
The republicans are worried about Joe Biden’s mental acuity https://t.co/NpmQGSqcjp— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) August 10, 2020
If anyone says anything about Joe Biden flubbing a line ever again, just post the clip of Trump saying the 1917 pandemic ended the Second World War over and over again.— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) August 11, 2020
Trump says the Spanish Flu in 1917 "probably" ended the Second World War.— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) August 10, 2020
The Spanish Flu was in 1918 and WWII ended in 1945. It's "probably" a good thing the Secret Service cut that press conference short. pic.twitter.com/sHQj2Uqov6
"The closest thing is, uh, in 1917, they say, uh, The Great- the Great Pandemic; & it certainly was a terrible thing where they lost anywhere from 50 to 100 million ppl; probably ended the Second World War, all the soldiers were sick."— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) August 10, 2020
-The US President just spoke this sentence
The genius MAGA crowd who worships and defends the guy who can’t pronounce “Yosemite” or “Thailand” and says the 1917 pandemic probably ended WW2 thinks Joe Biden is mentally compromised. https://t.co/xt2KY8l1kQ— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) August 11, 2020
Obama fought WWII but was forced to concede defeat because of the pandemic of 1917 and since then the cupboards have been bare. They couldn't even test for it because there weren't any tests. All the while our soldiers didn't have any bullets. No bullets. Could you imagine? No bu— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) August 11, 2020
If you were wondering why President Drink Bleach has botched the response for 7 straight months:— Andrew Bates (@AndrewBatesNC) August 10, 2020
In 1917 "the great pandemic certainly was a terrible thing where they lost anywhere from 50 to 150 million people. Probably ended the second world war. All the soldiers were sick." pic.twitter.com/R9YRAcvCZj
How is this not an example of some sort of brain problem or dementia? He has repeatedly, on numerous occasions, claimed the Spanish flu was in 1917, not 1918. He must have been corrected dozens of times. He still says 1917. It’s not some sort of politically useful lie. Why do it? https://t.co/EEFifIJxjg— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) August 10, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.