While Donald Trump downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus last winter, he knew full well how dangerous, fast-spreading and deadly the illness actually could be, admitting as much in a series of recorded interviews with renowned journalist Bob Woodward.
Woodward interviewed the President several times between December 5, 2019, and July 21, 2020, for his latest book, Rage, which is set to be released on September 15. The book clarifies just how much Trump knew about the disease long before the first recorded U.S. death, CNN reports.
“It goes through the air,” Trump told Woodward on February 7. “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. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“This is more deadly,” he added. “This is 5 percent versus one percent and less than 1 percent. You know? So this is deadly stuff.”
However, as the report notes, Trump spent most of the next month claiming that cases in the U.S. would just “disappear,” assuring the American people that the virus was under control.
A little over a month later, Trump revealed to Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the virus to avoid panic.
“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said on March 19.
The fallout that occurred after news broke was swift, with several officials from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the impeached president out for his lies.
“He understood better than he let on when he was calling it a hoax,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon. “His delay, distortion and denial about the threat is responsible for many of the deaths and infections. . . not all of them but many of them could have been prevented.”
“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,” said Biden while visiting the United Auto Workers training facility in Warren, Michigan, the Washington Post reports.
Trump, for his part, justified his response, saying that he didn’t want to cause panic.
“So the fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked if he misled the public. “I don’t want to create panic, as you say. And certainly, I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength.”