President conducts phone call while in hospital (Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic and his own infection poorly because he views illness as an “unforgivable weakness”, his niece has suggested.

“That’s why we’re in the horrible place we’re in, because he cannot admit to the weakness of being ill or of other people being ill,” said Mary Trump, 55, in an interview for NPR’s Fresh Air programme on Sunday.

Ms Trump, who is in the process of suing the president and two of his siblings, was speaking while her uncle was condemned for an “insane” motorcade trip outside the hospital where he is being treated.

During the pandemic, Mr Trump, 74, has sought to downplay the seriousness of the disease as he pushed for states to come out of lockdown early and Americans to return to work.

He until recently refused to wear a face covering and has repeatedly mocked presidential rival, Joe Biden, for taking a cautious approach to the disease, which has so far claimed some 210,000 US lives and infected some 7.5 million others.

Since his transfer to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre on Friday, team Trump has attempted to paint a picture of a president in good health. Officials on Saturday published photos of the president working at his desk.

But it has since transpired that the commander-in-chief needed oxygen on two separate occasions and that he has been treated with dexamethasone, leading to confusion over his condition.

Sunday night’s motorcade stunt sparked outrage among the medical community, with critics claiming the president – who may have still been highly infectious – unnecessarily put his security detail at risk.

During her interview, Ms Trump – who recently published a tell-all book about her uncle – suggested the president’s repeated efforts to portray a strong image could be down to the family’s views on illness.

Both Donald and his father, Fred Trump, were of the opinion that sickness was “unacceptable,” said Ms Trump, before adding: “[That] sounds incredibly cruel, but happens to be true.”

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Explaining where the belief might have come from, Ms Trump told a story about her grandmother (the president’s mother) who had osteoporosis. Fred Trump Sr was “unable to tolerate” his wife’s sickness, according to Ms Trump.

She added: “You know, he’d be in the room with her. And as soon as she started showing that she was in physical pain, he would say ‘everything’s great, right. Everything’s great.’ And he’d leave the room”.

Ms Trump launched a lawsuit against the president last month accusing him and other family members of defrauding her out of an inheritance worth tens of millions of dollars.

The complaint accused Donald Trump, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and his brother Robert Trump, who died in August, of “rampant fraud and misconduct.”

She accused the siblings of seizing control of the real estate empire built by their father Fred Trump Sr, who died in 1999, and exploiting it to enrich themselves.

“Fraud was not just the family business – it was a way of life,” according to the complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan.

The White House responded by saying the only “fraud committed there was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives and she has really discredited herself.”

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