An upcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward, title Rage, has detailed conversations with US President Donald Trump where he admits to playing down the seriousness of the coronavirus as early as February, in order to avoid creating panic.
“I always wanted to play it down…I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, CNN reported after accessing the book ahead of its September 15 release.
Unlike earlier tell-alls released by those who have been close to Trump since he took office, this book’s revelations are accompanied by audio tapes—Woodward was known to have recorded his interviews and one of the recordings shows that Trump was plenty aware of how dangerous coronavirus was in March.
“Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just older [people]...” Trump tells Woodward, adding “young people, too, plenty of young people”. This recording, released by CNN, was taken on March 19.
On February 9, Trump was publicly adamant that the common flu, which he said killed 25,000-69,000 people a year, was more dangerous than the coronavirus. That same month, he said the virus would go away in April because it would be killed by heat.
When speaking with Woodward, however, Trump was more forthright. “This is deadly stuff,” he said on February 7, adding that it was “more deadly” than the flu and that he knew it could be spread through airborne transmission.
The revelations suggest Trump outright lied to the American public in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when little more than a dozen people had the virus. By March 18, trump declared a national emergency and by April 11, the US had the highest death toll in the world. As of September 9, the US had over 6.5 million cases and nearly 2 lakh deaths from the virus.
In a press briefing held on Wednesday, the White House has since denied that the president lied to the public. “The President has never lied to the American public on Covid,” White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said. “He was expressing calm and he was taking early action and his actions are reflective of how seriously he took Covid,” she said.