A new book about President Trump from legendary journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame hits shelves this month but early excerpts are already causing a stir. According to CNN, the book reveals that Trump sought to intentionally mislead the American public about the risks of COVID-19.
Even as he downplayed the risks of the pandemic officially, Trump confided to Woodward in private that he understood just how dangerous it really was, saying that it was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” The president made the comments during a series of eighteen interviews with Woodward conducted over a period stretching from December 2019 to July 2020.
In February, Trump told Woodward that COVID-19 was “deadly stuff,” making it clear that he had a far better understanding of the gravity of the outbreak than he was sharing with the country. Meanwhile, this was the same month he got up in front of a crowd and called the growing concerns over COVID-19 a Democratic “hoax.”
In March, Trump actually admitted to Woodward that he had lied to the public about the severity of the virus. “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” said the president.
Clearly, Trump was for more concerned about his popularity than saving American lives. If he had been honest from the beginning and taken radical action to curb the spread of the coronavirus, perhaps as many as 36,000 now-deceased Americans would still be alive. By lying to further his own political interests he unilaterally condemned thousands of people to die. One struggles to think of a graver betrayal of the Oval Office.
Woodward’s shocking revelations are the kind the Trump administration would usually deny outright, operating under the relatively safe presumption that Republican supporters would believe the lies of their president over credible reportage. Unfortunately for the president and his spin doctors, Woodward has recordings of his conversations with the president. There is simply no way to deny it this time. Even so, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is doing her best to extinguish the growing fires of outrage.
During her press briefing today, McEnany denied that Trump deliberately misled the public about COVID-19. She claimed that comments during the early days of the pandemic, rather than being a downplaying of the problem, were an attempt to “express confidence, to express calm.” She ridiculously claimed that his behavior was acceptable because he was trying to “avoid chaos.”
“The president has never lied to the American public on COVID,” said McEnany with a straight face.
The Woodward book also quotes Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying Trump was “rudderless” as a leader and that his “attention span is like a minus number.” Fauci also said that Trump’s “sole purpose is to get reelected.”
NBC’s Geoff Bennett brought up the Fauci quotes and pointed out that they reinforce the idea that the president intentionally misrepresented the coronavirus outbreak to the public. McEnany responded by saying that Fauci “allegedly” said these things to Woodward before reeling off several times Fauci praised Trump’s virus response in public (something he was wise to do if he wanted to keep his job and continue to bring his expertise to bear to save American lives).
“So there’s a long litany of praise from Dr. Fauci and you’re referencing something he allegedly told Bob Woodward,” concluded McEnany before trying to move on to the next question.
“It’s on tape. It’s on tape Kayleigh,” interjected Bennett. McEnany appeared thrown off by the comment, rambled a bit about the Fauci quotes she had evoked, before moving on.
.@GeoffRBennett: POTUS by his own admission acknowledged the depth of this crisis, and yet told the American people something very different. How is that not an abject betrayal of the public trust?
McENANY: Your referencing something he allegedly said
BENNETT: It's on tape pic.twitter.com/ASVxHDLjDY
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 9, 2020
The president himself was later asked about the Woodward recordings and offered an explanation every bit as disgraceful as McEnany’s.
“Did you mislead the public by saying that you downplayed the coronavirus and that you repeatedly did that in order to reduce panic. Did you mislead the public?” Trump was asked.
“Well, I think if you said in ‘order to reduce panic’ perhaps that’s so,” admitted Trump. “The fact is that I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened. 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 as a nation and that’s what I’ve done,” he added.
The idea that Trump is averse to creating “panic” is an outrageous lie and an insult to the 190,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 in large part to his incompetence. This president has no problem spreading fear when he thinks it can help him politically. He did it when he demonized Mexicans as rapists, he did it when fearmongered about the migrant caravans ahead of the mid-term elections, and he’s doing it now by trying to say citizens won’t be safe in a Joe Biden America.
Seeding panic is one of Trump’s favorite tools. The real reason he misled the public about COVID-19 is that he didn’t want to admit that there was a national health crisis ahead of the 2020 election. He was afraid of how it might hurt his popularity and as a result, Americans are dead.
Q: "Did you mislead the public?"
President Trump: "Well, I think if you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so. The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic." pic.twitter.com/NNbnkPz346
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 9, 2020
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