In Washington, President Donald Trump told iconic journalist Bob Woodward that he knew coronavirus was more deadly and contagious than the flu while he continued to downplay its dangers to the public, according to Woodward’s new book Rage.
According to The Washington Post, Donald Trump is recorded saying, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” on March 19 in footage of audio interviews revealed by CNN.
Rage is based on interviews Woodward has with Trump with between December 2019 and July 2020. It was then that the impeached President discussed the threat of the COVID-19 revealing details he had not yet acknowledged to the public. He noted February 7 that it was “deadly stuff,” and “more deadly than your “strenuous flus.”
While Trump discussed the threat of the virus to Woodward, he continued to assure the public that it was “under control” in the U.S. and would “go away.” The coronavirus has caused almost 190,000 deaths in the U.S. with cases totaling over 6 million.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended and undermined the President simultaneously on Wednesday after the publication of the interviews with Woodward, arguing that he was being a good leader by remaining calm. “The President has never lied to the American public on COVID,” McEnany said. “The President was expressing calm and his actions reflect that.”
Trump continued to go public comparing the coronavirus to the flu, arguing that cases and deaths from the coronavirus were far less than the flu, but with the flu, “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” as he tweeted March 9.
Trump told Woodward in February, “It goes through air, Bob, that’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.”
The same day in February Trump acknowledged, “This is deadly stuff,” he tweeted that with warmer weather, the virus “hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone” after a conversation with President Xi Jinping of China.
“It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it,” Trump told Woodward on April 13, CNN reported. Three days later, the White House was releasing guidelines on how to start reopening the country after coronavirus shutdowns.
Experts warned that Trump’s downplaying of the virus might have an extreme negative impact on Americans’ efforts to stop the spread. But Trump has largely blamed China for the spread of the virus in the United States, and has refused to own up to irresponsible actions.
“The virus has nothing to do with me,” Trump told Woodward in July. “It’s not my fault. It’s — China let the damn virus out.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden criticized Trump for his comments before a campaign event on Wednesday, calling it a “life and death betrayal of the American people.”
Biden continued, “He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people, he knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”
Bob Woodward’s book Rage is set to be released on Sept. 15, 2020.