In mid-May, shortly after Cordova reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, Jean DeBruler placed a large white sign reading “Trump’s Death Clock” in her front yard. Facing Lake Avenue, the sign tallies the number of coronavirus deaths theoretically traceable to President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Since May, DeBruler has dutifully updated the death toll on her sign.
DeBruler’s figures come from the “Trump Death Clock,” a website created by Emmy-winning documentarian Eugene Jarecki, who was influenced by projects such as the U.S. National Debt Clock. The Trump Death Clock draws its premise from an April 14 New York Times article by epidemiologists Britta L. and Nicholas P. Jewell estimating that swifter action by the Trump administration would have led to a 60 percent reduction in coronavirus deaths. Based on this figure, the Trump Death Clock website contends that, as of Tuesday, Sept. 22, 118,817 coronavirus deaths have resulted from President Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic.
Though DeBruler acknowledges the limitations of the Trump Death Clock formula, she believes that the sign sends a clear response to the conspiracy theories and misinformation surrounding the pandemic.
A self-described political independent, DeBruler voted for Richard Nixon and supported Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a 2010 write-in campaign. Trump, however, alienated DeBruler with what she described as a lack of decency and compassion.
“It’s been horrible in so many different ways, but it comes down to one thing, I think: lack of empathy,” DeBruler said. “When you don’t have that, no matter what your capacities are in any job … if you don’t have empathy or caring, you can’t do a good job at anything or for anybody. He hasn’t done his job for people.”
DeBruler’s sign stands in front of The Barn, a prominent, red-painted building that previously served as a convenience store, a movie rental and a youth hangout. The sign drew regular feedback — much of it lightheartedly chiding DeBruler for not updating her numbers promptly enough, she said. When one Trump supporter stopped by to voice his disapproval of the sign, DeBruler thanked him, she said.
However, on the morning of Sept. 22, four months after the sign went up, DeBruler found that it had been altered with red spray paint to read “Trump 2020.” DeBruler took the incident in good humor, and is currently working on a larger “Trump’s Death Clock” sign.
“We got somebody’s attention!” DeBruler said.
William Deaton, leader of the Republican Party’s Cordova Precinct, said that DeBruler’s sign, as private property and as an expression of DeBruler’s freedom of speech, should not have been damaged.
“Our great Republican president would not want people to vandalize signs, regardless of how critical they are of him,” Deaton said. “I, along with every other decent American, denounce violence and vandalism wherever it rears its ugly head.”
In a separate incident, a sign endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, put up by Cordova resident Nancy Bird near her residence, was spray-painted and pulled down.
DeBruler said that she will leave the defaced “Trump’s Death Clock” sign up for the time being, as a monument to the vandal’s bad behavior.
“That’s not the Cordova way,” DeBruler said. “I’ve always had my point of view and, if you don’t like it, you’ve always been able to come talk to me.”