Donald Trump walks through the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House

Donald Trump Admitted To Downplaying the Coronavirus Threat & Bob Woodward Sat on It to Sell Books

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Legendary journalist Bob Woodward has a new book on the way and this time, Donald Trump sat with him for a series of 18 separate interviews, reportedly as an attempt to make himself look better than how he came off in Woodward’s last book, Fear. He was not successful.

Among the many damning things Trump said to Woodward on the record, on tape, was just how much he knew about the dangers of the coronavirus before that information went public, and that he planned all along to downplay that danger.

On February 7, Trump told Woodward the novel coronavirus was “deadly stuff” and “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

On February 9 (as well as multiple times after that, in press briefings, interviews, and on Twitter), Trump dismissively compared the 15 cases of COVID-19 that had been reported in the U.S. at the time to the flu, which “kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year” in this country. Later that month, he said the virus would “just disappear” one day. He called it a “hoax.”

On March 19, days after he declared a national emergency, Trump told Woodward he kept information hidden from the public.

“I wanted to always play it down,” he said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

I don’t know why Trump thought he could say all of this to a journalist and not come off looking like a complete monster. His administration, amazingly (if predictably) is still trying to deny that he said these things, despite the fact that Woodward released the audio of these interviews.

That’s Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who, on her first day of the job promised reporters she would never lie to them, indignantly claiming Trump “never downplayed the virus”—which is a lie.

That Trump knew about the virus and downplayed the risks is not new information, but it is kind of shocking to hear the audio of him saying these things with no hesitation. What’s also infuriating is that Bob Woodward pulled a John Bolton and kept all of this to himself for the purposes of putting it in a book, rather than see it as information the public had a right to have access to immediately.

(image: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.