President Donald Trump assailed likely opponent Joe Biden as "not competent" to lead the country, speaking as polls over the weekend showed deepening voter disenchantment with his own handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"He's shot, he's mentally shot," Trump said about Biden in a wide-ranging interview with "Fox News Sunday."
He said that if Biden is elected on November 3, he will "destroy this country."
Facing the multiple challenges of a spreading pandemic, racial unrest and a struggling economy, Trump made several unfounded or highly speculative accusations against the former vice president, saying Biden would "triple your taxes" and "defund the police."
He added, "Religion will be gone," referring to Democratic officials banning large church services to stem the virus spread.
Asked whether he would accept the election result in November, even if he loses, Trump echoed his position of 2016, saying, "I have to see ... I'm not going to just say yes."
The interview, which was taped in advance, came as new polling results showed support for Biden surging as doubts about Trump's handling of the pandemic grow amid a resurgence in many states.
Interviewer Chris Wallace told the president that a new Fox opinion poll showed Biden with a substantial lead over Trump not only on his ability to manage the pandemic (with a 17-point edge) and to deal with racial unrest (by 21 points), but even -- by a single point -- on handling the economy, long a Trump strong point.
And a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has Biden leading Trump among registered voters nationwide by a resounding 15-point margin, 55-to-40 percent.
Trump dismissed such polling as "fake," saying White House surveys show him winning both nationally and in key swing states.
- 'Mommy, Mommy...' -
He repeatedly pummeled Biden, who has kept a relatively low profile amid the restraints imposed by the pandemic.
Trump claimed that the Democrat wanted to "defund the police" -- a battle cry of some anti-racist protesters -- and insisted that such language was in a Biden policy document, though he was unable to produce it when challenged by Wallace.
As he repeatedly questioned his rival's mental acuity, Wallace asked him directly if thought Biden was senile.
"I don't want to say that," Trump replied. "I say he's not competent to be president."
He questioned whether the Democrat could pass a cognitive ability test that he said he had "aced," and said the former vice president would fall apart under tough questioning.
"Let Biden sit through an interview like this, he'll be on the ground crying for Mommy. He'll say, 'Mommy, Mommy, please take me home.'"
- 'Envy of the world' -
Trump again defended his handling of the pandemic, claiming that "we are the envy of the world" on testing; and, of his early prediction that the virus would someday disappear, said, "I'll be right eventually."
He again opposed any national mandate for mask-wearing, saying, "I want people to have a certain freedom."
Referring to the racial unrest in the country, and a recent spike in violent crime in some cities, the president blamed "Democrat-run cities," which he said were "stupidly run."
Asked about statistics showing American blacks are twice as likely to be shot and killed by police as whites, Trump replied, "Many whites are killed also. You have to say that."
And he equated those who fly the Confederate flag with those saying that "Black Lives Matter," adding, "It's freedom of speech."
- 'Long overdue' -
Trump again stated his opposition to renaming US military bases named after Confederate generals -- even after the military supported the idea.
"I don't care what the military says," the president said.
"We're going to name it after the Reverend Al Sharpton?" he asked rhetorically, referring to a prominent African-American civil rights leader.
There was no immediate response to the interview from Biden or his campaign, though the former vice president did tweet that "Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue."
On other subjects, Trump said the economy was "doing very well," even as millions remain jobless, with some states reimposing lockdowns. The stock market, he said, was near record highs.
US President Donald Trump walks from the White House to his motorcade before traveling on July 19, 2020 to his Virginia golf club on
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, is seen speaking on July 15, 2020 at an event in Wilmington, Delaware
US President Donald Trump, seen wearing a mask for the first time in public during a visit to a military hospital near Washington, continues to oppose a national mask mandate
In this file photo taken July 8, 2017, a member of the Ku Klux Klan holds a Confederate flag during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Pentagon has banned the display of that flag on US military bases