The White House is struggling to muster up a damage control strategy in the wake of storied journalist Bob Woodward’s bombshell revelation that the president deliberately misled the American public about the dangers of COVID-19.
“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” the president confided to Woodward over the course of 18 interviews conducted between December 2019 and July 2020. Even as he was claiming there was nothing to worry about in public and dismissing the pandemic as a Democratic “hoax” he was telling Woodward in private that he knew the novel coronavirus was “deadly stuff.”
Trump told the reporter that COVID-19 is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” All the while, his messaging focused on convincing people they had nothing to worry about with the pandemic. It’s impossible to know just how many lives could have been saved if the president had given the country a clear sense of the risks and encouraged them to take the necessary safety precautions. Instead, he chose to lie, presumably because he was worried that acknowledging the severity of the outbreak could hurt his polling numbers.
So far, the best defense the administration has managed to conjure is an utterly absurd and asinine claim that Trump was simply trying to avoid spreading “panic.” As many have been quick to point out, this president has absolutely no problem spreading panic about everything from MS-13 to Antifa when he deems it politically advantageous for himself. He thrives on panic and any insinuation to the contrary can be immediately disregarded as bad faith spin.
During his press conference today, Trump was asked directly by ABC’s Jon Karl why the country should believe what he has to say now that we know he lied to us about the virus. Rather than embrace responsibility (something no sane person should expect from him at this point), Trump acted as if the question were somehow unfair to him.
“Such a terrible question and the phraseology,” said Trump, playing the victim as usual. “I didn’t lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can’t be panicked. I knew that the tapes were there. These were a series of phone calls that we had, mostly phone calls,” Trump said before going off on a longwinded tangent about how he hasn’t read Woodward’s book.
“And [Woodward] didn’t report it because he didn’t think it was bad. Nobody thought it was bad,” said Trump. Karl tried to interject and Trump shut him down.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” said the president. “And your question, the way you phrased that is such a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to ABC television network. It’s a disgrace to your employer and that’s the answer. You ready? Because–” said Trump. He and Karl then went back and forth, talking over to each other.
The reporter pointed out that Trump told the public that COVID-19 was just like the flu even though he knew that to be untrue. In response, the president rambled about the flu for a bit, repeated his nonsensical claim that he was trying to project “confidence” and ultimately failed to offer any kind of real justification for misleading the country. Not long after, the president scurried out of the briefing room before the rest of the press corps could ask their questions.
Watch the shameful performance below.
Reporter asks Trump, "why did you lie to the American people and why should we trust what you have to say now" about coronavirus.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 10, 2020
And that's it. Three questions and he's gone.
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) September 10, 2020
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