Trump says he downplayed virus threat to avoid panic

Bloomberg September 10 | Updated on September 10, 2020

US President Donald Trump   -  Bloomberg

US President insists he was right in keeping his concerns private

US President Donald Trump defended telling journalist Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the severity of the coronavirus in public, saying he did’nt want to cause panic or price spikes.

“I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward, the author and associate editor for the Washington Post, on March 19 in one of a series of interviews for his book, Rage, due for publication this month.

Trump on Wednesday embraced his comments in the interviews, which were conducted between December and July but were’nt published until CNN and the Washington Post reported on the book Wednesday. He insisted he was right to keep his concerns about the virus private.

“We don’t want to instill panic, we don’t want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem that is a tremendous problem, scare everybody,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after announcing a list of potential Supreme Court appointees.

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country,” he said. “And I don’t want people to be frightened, I don’t want to create panic, as you say. Certainly, I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”

The revelations from Woodwards book have led to accusations that Trump misled the American public about the severity of the virus. He told the author in an interview in February, when the US had reported few cases of Covid-19, that the virus was more dangerous than the flu.

In public, meanwhile, he favourably compared coronavirus and the flu, noting that there were at the time many more flu deaths in the US. Asked whether he thought he could have saved lives if he had been more forthright, Trump said: “If we did’nt do what we did, we would have had millions die.”

“W’eve done, from every standpoint, an incredible job,” he said. “We had to show calm.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, leading Trump in polls ahead of the November election, seized on the Woodward interviews, charging that the President is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans for failing to adequately warn of the threat posed by the virus.

“He knew how deadly it was,” Biden said in Michigan. “He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed for months.”

Published on September 10, 2020

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