Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He admitted that he'd deliberately lied to Americans about how serious the COVID-19 threat was.

Trump was interviewed 18 times for investigative reporter Bob Woodward's forthcoming book, Rage. Excerpts from it were published today, along with audio recordings of some of those interviews. In a session taped on February 7, Trump gravely acknowledged the public health threat.

WOODWARD: And so, what was President Xi saying yesterday?

TRUMP: Oh, we were talking mostly about the virus, and I think he’s going to have it in good shape. But it’s a very tricky situation.

WOODWARD: Indeed, it is.

TRUMP: It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. 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. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

WOODWARD: I know. It’s much forgotten.

TRUMP It’s pretty amazing. And then I said, “Well, is that the same thing?”

WOODWARD: What are you able to do for—

TRUMP: This is more deadly. This is 5% versus 1%, and less than 1%. So this is deadly stuff.

Then on March 19, Trump said he was deliberately understating the threat in what were by then daily "task force" briefings. He also acknowledged the fact that the virus threatened young people as well as the elderly.

TRUMP: Now it’s starting out it’s not just all people, Bob. But just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older—

WOODWARD: Yeah. Exactly.

TRUMP: Young people too. Plenty of young people. We’re looking at what’s going on in-

WOODWARD: So, give me a moment of talking to somebody, going through this with Fauci, or somebody who kind of… It caused a pivot in your mind, because it’s clear just from what’s on the public record, that you went through a pivot on this to, “Oh my God. The gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.”

TRUMP: Well, I think Bob, really, to be honest with you-

WOODWARD: Sure. I want you to be.

TRUMP: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.

Of course, almost every public statement Trump has made on the subject has been to downplay the threat. That included directly contradicting things he'd already admitted to Woodward, like equating it with the normal flu, calling the threat a politicized "hoax," and saying that young people were immune.

Asked about this today, Trump admitted that he had indeed tried to mislead the public about how dangerous the coronavirus is.

Q: Mr. President, can you address the concerns from the Woodward book in regards to whether — 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: 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, as you say.  And certainly, I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.

Trump didn't say what "panic" would have been worse than hundreds of thousands of Americans dying. He did say that he had "done very well" in handling the outbreak. 

Why should I care about this?

  • If deliberately lying to Americans about the threat posed by a disease that can kill them isn't evidence that a president is unfit for office, nothing is.