Book: Trump said of virus, 'I wanted to always play it down'

President Trump seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the government had it under control, according to a book by Bob Woodward.

News 12 Staff

Sep 9, 2020, 7:40 PM

Updated 1,350 days ago

Share:

Book: Trump said of virus, 'I wanted to always play it down'
President Donald Trump seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said.

The Washington Post, where Woodward serves as associate editor, reported excerpts of the book, “Rage" on Wednesday, as did CNN. The book also covers race relations, diplomacy with North Korea and a range of other issues that have arisen during the past two years.

The book is based in part on 18 interviews that Woodward conducted with Trump between December and July. The book is an unwelcome return to focus on Trump’s handling of the pandemic just as he is trying to project the virus as under control and eager to see a return to normal activity leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

"Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states,” Woodward writes. “There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president's words to the public were designed to express confidence and calm at a time of insurmountable challenges.

“The president has never lied to the American public on COVID. The president was expressing calm and his actions reflect that," McEnany said.

McEnany took questions about the book during a briefing at the White House on Wednesday. She said his actions reflect that he took COVID-19 seriously. She noted that the president put in place travel restrictions with China on Jan. 31 and that some Democrats had criticized the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the president's comments to Woodward connoted weakness and a disdain for science.

“What he was actually saying is, ‘I don't want anybody to think anything like this happened on my watch so I'm not going to call any more attention to it," Pelosi said during an interview on MSNBC.

Woodward's book is his second on the Trump White House. The first, published in 2018, portrayed Trump in an unflattering light, and the president fumed at staff that he was not interviewed for it, according to two former White House officials and Republicans close to the White House. They were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Trump was convinced that had he talked to Woodward, he could have led to a more favorable depiction in the book, according to the officials. Trump had always held Woodward in high regard - he considered the journalist as the biggest star in the field - and told aides that he insisted on being interviewed if Woodward were to write again, the officials said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seized on the book's allegations that Trump played down the threat of the virus to the public but knew the dangers it posed. Biden called Trump's handling of the pandemic “beyond despicable."

“It’s a dereliction of duty. It’s a disgrace,” Biden said.
(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
 


More from News 12
1:56
NYPD: 1-year-old in critical condition wasn't in car seat during Brownsville crash; drivers face charges

NYPD: 1-year-old in critical condition wasn't in car seat during Brownsville crash; drivers face charges

1:34
Warmer today in New York City; high temperatures could reach 83

Warmer today in New York City; high temperatures could reach 83

0:28
Flatlands crash flips vehicle in intersection

Flatlands crash flips vehicle in intersection

1:59
Owner of legal marijuana shop: Illegal shops close during the day and open at night to avoid inspections

Owner of legal marijuana shop: Illegal shops close during the day and open at night to avoid inspections

Power & Politics: Ask Mayor Eric Adams

Power & Politics: Ask Mayor Eric Adams

0:38
Elected officials, advocates rally to restore funding for community composting programs

Elected officials, advocates rally to restore funding for community composting programs

1:34
East New York tenant in once-leaky apartment says the rodents have taken over

East New York tenant in once-leaky apartment says the rodents have taken over

1:46
Susan Sarandon, public advocate work in Dumbo restaurant to shine light on ‘One Fair Wage’ mission

Susan Sarandon, public advocate work in Dumbo restaurant to shine light on ‘One Fair Wage’ mission

2:06
Williamsburg building owner issued violation following partial roof collapse

Williamsburg building owner issued violation following partial roof collapse

1:44
Summer is in the air: Hot week ahead in New York City

Summer is in the air: Hot week ahead in New York City

0:23
NYPD: 2 men wanted for robbing 74-year-old man at gunpoint in Sheepshead Bay

NYPD: 2 men wanted for robbing 74-year-old man at gunpoint in Sheepshead Bay

0:16
NYPD: Man fatally shot in the head in East New York; suspect at large

NYPD: Man fatally shot in the head in East New York; suspect at large

1:54
Born to run: Brooklyn man diagnosed with rare disease is back doing what he loves

Born to run: Brooklyn man diagnosed with rare disease is back doing what he loves

1:39
NYPD: 2 armed robberies involving mopeds in Brooklyn believed to be connected

NYPD: 2 armed robberies involving mopeds in Brooklyn believed to be connected

1:58
Brooklyn residents say there is an urgent need for more birth options in NYC

Brooklyn residents say there is an urgent need for more birth options in NYC

1:47
NYPD: 30-year-old man fatally shot, another injured in Brownsville

NYPD: 30-year-old man fatally shot, another injured in Brownsville

1:43
‘Ride of Silence’ takes cyclists on ghost bike tour, honors victims of traffic accidents

‘Ride of Silence’ takes cyclists on ghost bike tour, honors victims of traffic accidents

1:00
FDNY firefighter injured during Bronx house fire released from hospital

FDNY firefighter injured during Bronx house fire released from hospital

1:38
Cyclists pedal through Brooklyn during Haitian Flag Day Ride & Fête

Cyclists pedal through Brooklyn during Haitian Flag Day Ride & Fête

1:45
 Missed swim lessons due to COVID-19 may be contributing to rise in child drownings

Missed swim lessons due to COVID-19 may be contributing to rise in child drownings