President Donald Trump acknowledged the “deadly” nature of the coronavirus earlier this year in a series of recorded interviews with the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, even as the White House sought to dismiss the disease’s threat to Americans amid its initial outbreak across the United States.
Recounting a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7 that the coronavirus is “more deadly than your, you know, your — even your strenuous flus.”
“This is more deadly,” he added. “This is five per — you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know. So, this is deadly stuff.”
Woodward conducted 18 on-the-record interviews with the president between last December and July to gather material for the veteran journalist’s forthcoming book on the Trump White House.
Excerpts of those conversations were published Wednesday by the Post and CNN, including an exchange between Trump and Woodward in which the president revealed he was eager to downplay the coronavirus outbreak so as not to alarm Americans.
“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down,” Trump said in a March 19 interview. “Because I don’t want to create a panic.”
The damaging recordings come in the final weeks of a general election campaign which has seen the coronavirus emerge as the most important issue to voters, and as the White House is already deflecting reports of Trump making disparaging remarks about the U.S. military and America’s war dead.