‘Political Hit Job’: Trump Responds To Woodward Recordings Showing He Downplayed Coronavirus Danger

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump says he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus to avert a sense of panic Wednesday and argued that Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward’s recordings of him are a “political hit job.”

Trump’s comments came hours after Woodward released recordings in which Trump can be heard saying in February and March that he both knew the virus was more severe than the flu and decided to downplay its severity. Trump’s response echoed White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who argued Trump did not lie to the American people, but tempered his language to avoid panic.

“We don’t want to run around screaming and shouting ‘oh look at this, look at this.’ We have to show leadership and leadership is all about confidence,” Trump said.

Woodward told Trump in a March 19 interview that “it’s clear, just from what’s on the public record that you went through a pivot on [coronavirus] to, ‘oh my god, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.’” Woodward then asked him what caused the change in rhetoric.

“To be honest with you,” Trump responded. “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Further recordings from Woodward’s interviews with Trump are expected to be released during this weekend’s “60 Minutes” program. Woodward will soon be releasing a book on Trump’s presidency titled “Rage.”

McEnany defended the president against assertions that Woodward’s recordings show Trump intentionally mislead the American people. (RELATED: BREAKING: President Trump Adds Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley And Others To SCOTUS Nominee List)

“The president has never lied to the American public on COVID,” she said Wednesday. “He was expressing calm and his actions reflect. This January 6 the CDC issued a Wuhan travel notice. I refer you to Dr. Fauci who said this president had an impressive response. I can’t imagine that anyone could do more. That’s the record of this president.”