TRUMP (FEB 27): “It’s going to disappear one day. It's like a miracle. It will disappear…”
Those optimistic words by President Donald Trump in February were under renewed scrutiny Wednesday, after an upcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward revealed the president knew early on how deadly and contagious the novel coronavirus was, but did not convey that information to the American people because he did not want to create a panic.
In a recording of a February 7 interview with Woodward Trump said: “It goes through the air. 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.”
But publicly, Trump played down the threat. Just days later, telling Americans:
TRUMP (FEB 28) “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that right? Coronavirus... And this is their new hoax.”
In comments to Woodward in March, Trump explained it was a strategy: "I wanted to always play it down… I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.”
In that conversation, Trump also told Woodward that some "startling facts" had just come out about the virus' targets, saying: ”It's not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people."
The recorded interviews, obtained by CNN and from reporting by Woodward for his new book "Rage" come as Trump's efforts to battle COVID-19 face intense criticism.
The virus has killed more than 190,000 people in the United States so far.
Trump on Wednesday defended his comments from earlier this year: “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, we want to show strength as a nation. And that’s what I’ve done.”
But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called the president’s actions a betrayal:
“He failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people... You know, his failure is not only cost lives and sent our economy into a tailspin, it cost millions more in American livelihoods.”
The University of Washington's health institute last week forecast that U.S. coronavirus deaths could reach 410,000 by year end.