By Johnathan Miller
President Trump said he knew, even before the first recorded death, how deadly COVID-19 could be while simultaneously admitting to downplaying the risk to the American people.
That is according to Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, who interviewed President Trump over several months in researching his new book “Rage,” scheduled to be released Sept. 15. Woodward kept audio recordings of the on-the-record interviews and shared them today — along with advance copies of his book — with major news organizations such as The Washington Post and CNN.
Despite informing the American public that there was no need for worry, President Trump admitted to journalist Woodward that he was aware of how dangerous and deadly the COVID-19 virus could be, even though, publically, he dismissed concerns over the virus.
In one interview with Woodard on Feb. 7, a few weeks before the first recorded death in the U.S. on Feb. 29, President Trump had been told the risk and danger that the COVID-19 pandemic presented.
According to The Washington Post, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told Trump that the virus would be “the biggest national security threat of your presidency.” Ten days later, President Trump called Woodward and said that this virus was more deadly than the average flu.
“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 flu. This is deadly stuff,” said President Trump on the Feb. 7 call.
Back in March, President Trump repeatedly downplayed the virus during press briefings. A video compiled by The Washington Post shows 54 times President Trump downplayed the COVID-19 virus ranging from “we have it very under control” to “it’s going to go away.”
President Trump has compared the coronavirus to the flu.
“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that,” President Trump tweeted on March 9, at 10:47 a.m.
In one audio interview, posted in The Washington Post, President Trump admitted wanting to downplay the threat to the virus. On March 19, President Trump said, “To be honest with you, I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Voters currently disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic 56.9% to 39%, according to news website FiveThirtyEight.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 9, the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded to the story saying, “The president has never lied to the American public on COVID.”
“He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was, and while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people,” former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in response to the new revelations while campaigning in Warren, Mich., on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
It is unclear how this will affect the presidential election between President Trump and Biden. Disapproval of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic is close to 60% amid a polarized electorate.
As noted in a previous article this week, the time for President Trump to narrow the race between now and election day is fleeting. Since many voters see his handling of the pandemic as a weak issue for him electorally, President Trump runs the risk of losing his chance to stage a political comeback.
Johnathan Miller (Twitter: @JMiller_NJ) is a senior political science major from Lacey, N.J. He is glad to join the Equinox in covering the 2020 Presidential Election for students and to help students understand and participate in the political process.
Credit: Simon & Schuster
The new book “Rage,” by Bob Woodward, uncovers details how President Trump has handled the COVID-19 pandemic and other national issues.