Hours after George W. Bush encouraged people to put aside their political differences in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic, he found himself on the receiving end of a social media attack from President Donald Trump.
Over the weekend, the George W. Bush Presidential Center released a nearly three-minute-long video, in which the former president, 73, addressed the “challenging and solemn time” people across the country and the world are facing.
“The larger challenge we share is to confront an outbreak of fear and loneliness,” he says in the video, before recalling the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks during his presidency.
“I saw a great nation rise as one to honor the brave, to grieve with the grieving and to embrace unavoidable new duties. And I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America,” he said, before urging people to “remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery.”
As the video came to a close, Bush asked people to “remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”
“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God,” he continued. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) May 2, 2020
Twisting Bush’s call for unity, on Sunday morning, Trump criticized him for sharing the message now, and not during his impeachment trial, which ultimately ended in acquittal.
“I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside,” he wrote on Twitter, referencing a comment he apparently heard on a Fox and Friends broadcast.
“He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!” Trump answered.
Although Bush largely stays out of the political fray, he has been vocal about his feelings on Trump in the past, saying in a 2017 book, “This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president.”
.@PeteHegseth “Oh bye the way, I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside.” @foxandfriends He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2020
Both Trump and the federal government have been under intense scrutiny in recent months over their handling of the pandemic, including issues relating to nationwide testing as well as Trump’s changing tone on the seriousness of the virus. He has also sparred with some governors over when the country should begin to reopen (falsely claiming he had “total” authority over the states), and has repeatedly lashed out at reporters who ask him questions he doesn’t like.
Over the weekend, Bush participated in The Call to Unite, a virtual 24-hour livestream to help the world to lift spirits amid the ongoing health crisis. He also tagged the organization in his video message, which was posted on Saturday morning.
“This is our moment to answer the call,” the organization said in an Instagram post promoting the event. “You may be scared, you may be struggling, but you are not alone.”
His wife, former first lady Laura Bush, also offered messages of hope as the virus spreads, teaming up with fellow former First Lady Michelle Obama for the Global Citizen’s star-studded One World: Together at Home special.
Over 1.1 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the outbreak began, and at least 66,400 have died, according to The New York Times.