Recordings of President Trump privately acknowledging he downplayed the coronavirus’s threat to the nation put the White House on defense Wednesday, reinserting the pandemic as the central issue in the presidential race eight weeks before Election Day.
Trump’s remarks to the Watergate journalist Bob Woodward, given in a series of interviews for the book “Rage,” underscored how Trump privately talked about the severity of COVID-19, even as he brushed it off in public remarks in January and February.
“I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward in a recording released by the veteran Washington Post journalist.
The remarks about the pandemic that shut down much of American life in 2020 and wreaked havoc on the economy were just some of the comments disclosed by Woodward.
Excerpts of “Rage” showcased by the Post also depict Trump as detached from the challenges Black Americans face, enthralled by his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and outraged that defense officials put outsized importance on maintaining alliances.