- President Donald Trump denied on Thursday that he publicly lied about the dangers of the coronavirus, despite newly-released interviews proving otherwise.
- Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in on-the-record and recorded conversations earlier this year that he intentionally played down the threat of the virus in his public messaging.
- "Why did you lie to the American people and why should we trust what you have to say now?" Jon Karl of ABC News asked the president during a news conference at the White House on Thursday.
- The president called Karl's question "terrible" and claimed he wanted to project strength and not panic the American people.
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President Donald Trump denied on Thursday that he publicly lied about the dangers of the coronavirus, despite newly-released taped conversations with journalist Bob Woodward proving the president knowingly misled the public.
Trump told Woodward in on-the-record and recorded conversations earlier this year that he intentionally played down the threat of the virus in his public messaging. While he told Woodward that the coronavirus was "more deadly than even your strenuous flus" and that "plenty of young people" were impacted by it, he told the American public a very different story. He repeatedly compared it to the common flu to make a public case against lockdowns.
"Why did you lie to the American people and why should we trust what you have to say now?" Jon Karl of ABC News asked the president during a news conference at the White House on Thursday.
"Such a terrible question and the phraseology," Trump replied. "I didn't lie. What I said is we have to be calm, we can't be panicked."
He went on, "I want to show a level of confidence and I want to show strength as a leader and I want to show our country is going to be fine, one way or another, whether we lose one person … Whether you have one person, 180,000 people, or two and a half or three million people, which it could have been, very seriously, if we didn't make the moves."
The president then went on to blame Woodward for not reporting his comments earlier, arguing that what he told the journalist was public knowledge.
On February 7, Trump told Woodward the coronavirus was "more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
But on February 26, Trump told reporters at the White House, "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for … And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
On March 6, Trump again compared the coronavirus to the flu and claimed that those who die from Covid-19 would also be vulnerable to the seasonal flu.
"We've had 11 deaths, and they've been largely old people who are — who were susceptible to what's happening," he said. "Now, that would be the case, I assume, with a regular flu too. If somebody is old and in a weakened state or ill, they're susceptible to the common flu too."
In a tweet on March 9, Trump wrote, "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"
Trump also told Woodward on March 7 that the coronavirus can be transmitted between humans through the air.
"You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed," he said in the recorded conversation. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one."
On March 19, he told Woodward of the coronavirus, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
He added in the recorded conversation, "Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older. Young people too — plenty of young people."
But since then, Trump has repeatedly claimed that children are "almost immune" from the coronavirus and pressured schools to reopen.
"If you look at children, children are almost, and I would say almost definitely, but almost immune from this disease," Trump told "Fox and Friends" on August 5. "I don't know how you feel about it, but they've got stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this."
The president has publicly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus at least two dozen times, pressured state goverments to reopen their economies before his own advisers said it was safe, and aggressively campaigned to reopen schools and churches.
He's also repeatedly undermined mitigation efforts by refusing to consistently promote social distancing and mask wearing, which are essential to containing the virus' spread.
Just last week, the president mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at a campaign rally, asking the crowd if they know "a man that likes a mask as much" as the former vice president.
"It gives him a feeling of security," Trump told his supporters. "If I was a psychiatrist, I'd say this guy has some big issues."
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