From Trump's taxes to virus: News moves at breakneck pace

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hold hands on stage after the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File) (Julio Cortez, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Remember the presidential debate? The revelation about how much President Donald Trump pays in taxes? The nomination of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice?

They all happened within the past week. Then, just as quickly, they receded into memory with the revelation Friday that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. News, substantial news, is rushing by at the speed of light.

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Memory more than full.

“I don't know how many writers who were working on political melodramas have just deleted their files and opened up a bottle of Scotch,” said veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield.

The coronavirus story unfurled shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday when Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News White House reporter, tweeted that sources had told her that Hope Hicks, one of Trump's closest aides, had tested positive. Trump confirmed that news in a tweet two and half hours later, adding that he and First Lady Melania Trump were being tested and awaiting the results in quarantine.

Then, at 12:54 a.m. Eastern, the president tweeted that both of them were positive.

“It's a lot to wake up to,” Savannah Guthrie said at the top of NBC's “Today” show for those who were asleep when the news hit.

ABC's political prognosticating guru Nate Silver tweeted “Not sure what to say” shortly after the news broke. Seven hours later he had his answer: a shoulder shrug emoji.

The story, not unexpectedly, unleashed raw political feelings on the airwaves.

“This is awful,” said Nia-Malika Henderson on CNN. “This is devastating. This is tragic. And the president bears so much responsibility for this, given the way that he has talked about wearing masks.”

Fox News Channel's Pete Hegseth predicted haters of Trump would quickly surface.

“Cue the wild conspiracy theories at this point," he said. “Cue the rabbit trails, cue the vitriol and the rabid speculation. None of this has anything to do with the president's best interests, the first lady or the rest of the country.”

Online, some of those outlandish theories flourished.

But, at least initially, there was enough legitimate news for reporters to chase. When did the president know his top aide was sick? How many people did he come into contact with while knowing there was a possibility of danger? Were reporters who attended a White House news briefing on Thursday at risk?

ABC's hiring of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as an analyst paid dividends, as he told a “Good Morning America” audience that he had been at the White House for several days until Tuesday for debate preparation and that none of Trump's aides were wearing masks. Looking shaken, Christie was preparing for a test himself.

Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace, who moderated Wednesday night's Trump-Biden debate in Cleveland, said that he got no closer to Trump than it appeared on television, but that Biden said something quietly to him quietly afterward.

Wallace and others noted how Trump aides and family attending the debate did not wear masks, contrary to rules that were set in place prior to the debate, and waved off a doctor who tried to give them masks if they didn't have one. The Biden team wore them.

Wallace also had harsh words for Scott Atlas, a former Fox guest who lately has had the president's ear offering advice on coronavirus policy.

“Listen to the independent people who do not have a political axe to grind,” Wallace said. “And I frankly don't think Scott Atlas is one of those people.”

Through much of Friday, Twitter was a whack-a-mole of announcements about people testing positive (like Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee) and negative (Democratic opponent Joe Biden and his wife, Jill).

It was all a little exhausting. “This past day and a half has been quite a month,” tweeted the Washington Post's Paul Farhi.

Greenfield, who is 77, said he can't remember a time when such major news has come so fast and furiously. It makes Bob Woodward's book about the Trump administration, and the revelations therein, feel like ancient history.

Greenfield recommends people take some time away from social media and the television. Read a novel. Watch some sports.

“You may want to go out for a walk,” he said. “But by the time you come back, the asteroid may have hit or the aliens landed and you have a whole new story.”

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