Kathryn Watson – CBS News
President Trump on Thursday said he didn’t lie to the American people about the danger posed by the coronavirus in the early days of the global pandemic.
Asked by a reporter, “Why did you lie to the American people” about COVID-19, the president responded, “I didn’t lie. What I said was we have to be calm. We can’t be panicked.”
Interviews the president did with journalist Bob Woodward that were made public a day ago seemed to show a disparity between what Mr. Trump knew about the virus in February and March and what he was saying publicly about it.
On February 7, Mr. Trump told Woodward he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the virus. He told Woodward the coronavirus was “more deadly” than “even your strenuous flus,” and difficult to address because “it goes through air.”
“This is deadly stuff,” Mr. Trump said to Woodward.
Three days later, the president said at an event with the nation’s governors that “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat, as the heat comes in,” and added the U.S. is in “great shape.”
He told Woodward on March 19, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Mr. Trump said, according to audio recorded by Woodward for his upcoming book, “Rage.”
Mr. Trump also declared Thursday the U.S. has “rounded the final turn” of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, a belief not shared by top public health experts.
That does not match up with statements made the same day by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.
“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Fauci said during a Harvard Medical School panel.
Public health experts warn COVID-19 will be combined with flu season to make an extra dangerous fall and winter.
Mr. Trump has been touting a timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting one might even be possible before Election Day, although experts, including the government’s own Dr. Anthony Fauci, say a widespread vaccine is not likely to be available to the public before 2021.