In dueling Christmas messages, President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump delivered very different visions of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the devastating impact the coronavirus has had on the country was central to Biden's message, Trump made brief mention of the scourge which has killed nearly 330,000 in the United States.
"We know for so many of you in our nation this has been a very difficult year," Biden said, alongside future first lady Dr. Jill Biden. "And we're reminded in this season of hope, our common humanity, and what we're called to do for one another."
"Many of our fellow Americans are struggling to find work, literally put food on the table, pay their rent or their mortgage, reminded we're on this earth to care for one another, to give what we can and to be a source of help and hope to friends and strangers alike," Biden added.
"For the Bidens, we usually have 20 to 25 people over Christmas Eve for dinner, but not this year," the president-elect noted of their modified celebration in light of the pandemic. "We're going to miss our family, but it's what we need to do to keep our families safe. We hope you'll consider limiting travel in the size of family gatherings as well this year."
Trump's message came in an official White House statement. The president made a faint reference to the pandemic, noting that "while our gatherings might look different than in years past, this Christmas, like every Christmas, is an opportunity for us to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and show our heartfelt gratitude for the abundant blessings God has bestowed upon our lives and country."
Where they did find common ground, however, was thanking frontline workers, essential workers, and United States troops around the world.
"To military families who are unable to celebrate Christmas together this year, our Nation humbly thanks you for your service and sacrifice," Trump said. "We are forever indebted to those who courageously serve our country in uniform—and those who walk alongside them. We also thank our Nation’s first responders, law enforcement officers, and frontline medical professionals who work tirelessly to serve and protect our communities. Your daily contributions are an example of the selfless love of God and remind us of the noble principles we strive to live by, especially during this special time of year."
Dr. Biden said that she and the president-elect "are so thankful for the frontline and essential workers who have put themselves at risk for all of us, and for the scientists and researchers who worked to deliver vaccines that are an incredible scientific breakthrough."
She went on to acknowledge U.S. service members, "who are far from home and the loved ones who miss them," adding "our family knows your sacrifice, and our hearts are with you."
After tossing a grenade that threatens to blow up a massive COVID relief and government funding bill and force a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic, President Trump was golfing on Christmas for a second straight day.
Failure to agree on the bill could deny checks to millions of Americans on the brink.
Trump had no events on his public schedule on the first day of his winter vacation Thursday, but traveled to his Palm Beach golf club, where he was spotted by CNN cameras on the links. Reporters were given no details of his schedule for the day, but told that, “As the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”
Trump’s departure came as Washington was still reeling over his surprise, eleventh-hour demand that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans $2,000 COVID relief checks — far more than the $600 members of his own party had agreed to. The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.