- Bob Woodward is defending his decision to withhold President Trump’s remarks about COVID-19 until the release of his new book.
- In public, Trump was downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, even suggesting it was a new “hoax” from Democrats to harm his presidency.
- In a conversation with Woodward, however, Trump contradicted his public remarks, noting that the virus is far more dangerous than the seasonal flu.
- In an interview with the Associated Press, Woodward claimed that he sat on the comment for more than six months in order to do more fact-checking.
- “He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?” Woodward said.
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President Trump knew back in February that the novel coronavirus was far more dangerous than the seasonal flu.
Still, weeks after he told veteran journalist Bob Woodward that it was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” he continued, in public, suggesting the opposite, contrasting the 37,000 flu-related deaths in 2019 to — as of early March — the 22 confirmed deaths in the US from COVID-19.
There are now more than 190,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, a number that could rise to 410,000 before 2020 is over.
So why did Woodward wait until September, when he had a book coming out, to highlight the contradiction in a populist leader’s remarks to his base and his private comments to a long-time member of the Beltway press corps?
He needed the time to fact check, Woodward, a reporter for The Washington Post, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
“He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?” Woodward said.
At the time, however, many experts were warning that the coronavirus was looking to be far more lethal than the flu, as Business Insider reported six months ago, a fact that drove the president mad, at least in public. MSNBC and CNN, the president tweeted on February 26, “are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible.”
Speaking to the AP, Woodward said Trump called him “out of the blue” in early February to “unburden himself” about COVID-19.
“If I had done the story at that time about what he knew in February, that’s not telling us anything we didn’t know,” Woodward said. Only in May, Woodward said, was he confident that Trump’s private remarks — as opposed to his public comments — were grounded in fact.
Woodward said he did feel an urgency to get the story out before November, though.
“Had I decided that my book was coming out on Christmas, the end of this year, that would have been unthinkable,” he said.
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