^
Trump admitted playing down coronavirus danger
US President Donald Trump departs after speaking about his list of potential Supreme Court nominees in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on September 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump also fielded questions about the coronavirus and Bob Woodward's new book about him.
AFP/Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Trump admitted playing down coronavirus danger

Sebastian Smith (Agence France-Presse) - September 10, 2020 - 7:44am

WASHINGTON, United States — US President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimize the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book "Rage," due to be published September 15.

"I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.

Coming eight weeks before the November 3 presidential election, the revelation added new pressure on Trump. Opinion polls show around two thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the virus and he has often been accused of minimizing the crisis in order to try and boost his reelection chances.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denounced the book as "another political hit job" and said if he'd downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a "frenzy."

"The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country, I love this country and I don't want people to be frightened," he said.

"I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy," he said. "We have to show leadership and the last thing you want to do is create a panic."

However, "Rage" will give fresh ammunition to the Democrats arguing that Trump failed to prepare Americans for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak or to lead them into a proper response.

In the interviews with Woodward, Trump made clear he'd understood at the outset that the virus was "deadly stuff" -- far more dangerous than the ordinary flu.

In public, however, Trump repeatedly told Americans during the initial weeks at the start of 2020 that the virus wasn't dangerous and would "disappear" by itself.

"He knew how deadly it was," Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said while campaigning in Michigan. "He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months."

"It was a life and death betrayal of the American people," Biden added.

But there was support for Trump from the highly respected infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, who has consistently told the public that the coronavirus requires a tough response -- even when the president appeared to be saying something different.

"I don't recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about," he told Fox News.

Trump was keen to stop the country from getting "down and out," Fauci said.

Mixed messages

The US death toll from Covid-19 is expected soon to pass 200,000.

The president has repeatedly insisted that he has successfully managed the pandemic, which is soon on track to take 200,000 lives in the country.

He points to early decisions to ban travel from China, where the virus first appeared, and from hotspots in Europe.

However, at minimum Trump delivered mixed messages at a time when the country was looking for guidance.

He veered from declaring himself the equivalent of a war-time president to contradicting government scientists and calling for early reopening of the economy.

In February -- well after he had been briefed by advisors on the dangers posed by the coronavirus -- he said that the virus might go away by April "with the heat."

In March, he described the government's "tremendous control over" the situation and said: "It will go away. Just stay calm."

That same month, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common flu, which he noted kills "between 27,000 and 70,000 per year" yet "nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on."

At the end of March, a grim-faced president announced that a death toll of 100,000 was looming. Shortly before, he'd been talking up the idea of people ending social distancing in time for Easter in mid-April.

It took until July before Trump even wore a face mask in public. Early on, he also frequently praised the Chinese government's response, only later pivoting to ferociously blaming Beijing for the global health crisis.

DONALD TRUMP NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 13, 2021 - 3:30pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

May 13, 2021 - 3:30pm

At the peak of Kenya's third wave of COVID-19 in March, hospitals — buckling under the strain of the virus — saw their oxygen reserves fizzle out. 

Since then, they have been scrambling to increase capacity of the lifesaving element, fearing the nightmare scenario currently unfolding in India due to oxygen shortages.

On the roof of the Metropolitan Hospital, a 150-bed private institution that targets the middle class, a brand-new oxygen production unit has just been installed that is capable of producing up to 600 liters of the gas per minute.

Metropolitan CEO Kanyenje Gakombe said the hospital accelerated plans to produce its own oxygen after supplies were squeezed to the limit during the height of the third wave, fanned by the variants of the coronavirus first detected in Britain and South Africa.

In April Kenya registered a record 571 deaths, and the health ministry warned hospitals were overrun with fewer than 300 patients in the Intensive Care Unit and fewer than 2,000 hospitalised countrywide. — AFP

May 12, 2021 - 6:19pm

The catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented had the warning signs been heeded, the global panel investigating the world's coronavirus response concluded Wednesday.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response blamed a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination, said the World Health Organization could have sounded the alarm sooner, and urged rich countries to donate one billion vaccine doses by September, in its long-awaited final report. —  AFP

May 12, 2021 - 12:36pm

Official data show India's coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday as the pandemic raged across the vast country of 1.3 billion people.

According to the health ministry, 4,205 people died in the past 24 hours -- a new record -- taking total fatalities to 254,197. 

The number of cases rose almost 350,000 to 23.3 million, the second-highest after the United States. — AFP

May 12, 2021 - 9:03am

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that a variant of COVID-19 behind the acceleration of India's explosive outbreak has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database "from 44 countries in all six WHO regions," adding it had received "reports of detections from five additional countries".  — AFP

May 11, 2021 - 6:49pm

Taiwan bans large gatherings after a cluster of local infections prompted authorities to raise the coronavirus alert level in a place with one of the world's best pandemic responses.

The self-ruled island has been hailed as a global leader in containing the COVID-19 pandemic with just 1,210 confirmed cases, 12 deaths and minimal social distancing needed once the initial outbreak was quelled.

Last year ,Taiwan recorded 253 straight days without any local infections. — AFP

Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with