Trump campaign officials on Sunday defended the President’s intentional public downplaying of COVID-19 early this year, which journalist Bob Woodward revealed in his forthcoming book.
Woodward, who spoke with Trump 18 times from December to July for his book, wrote that the President privately expressed fear over COVID-19 to him after being warned by national security officials in late January that COVID-19 would be the worst pandemic in a century.
Following reports on Woodward’s book and his reporting on Trump’s private COVID-19 concerns — which stood in stark contrast to his public downplaying of the novel coronavirus — the President admitted that he intentionally downplayed the severity of COVID-19 early this year because he is “a cheerleader for this country.”
On Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro clashed with CNN’s Jake Tapper when asked why Trump misled the public on COVID-19, citing a Feb. 7 interview that the President had with Woodward when he stated his private concerns on COVID-19.
After Tapper called Navarro out for dodging his question, the White House trade adviser insisted that Trump was “straightforward” before accusing Tapper of “cherry-picking.”
Navarro also told Tapper in the same interview that during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was in the “fog of war” and that there were “competing views” on “whether this is simply the flu or whether this is very serious” at the time, despite recordings by Woodward of the President’s comments on the severity of COVID-19.
But it’s not just the White House that came to the President’s defense on Sunday — Trump campaign officials hopped on the bandwagon as well. Here’s how they defended the President’s public downplaying of COVID-19 following revelations in Woodward’s book:
Trump campaign senior adviser Steve Cortes
While blaming the “corporate media” for “pushing out a myth that the President mishandled the virus” during an interview on Fox News Sunday, Cortes echoed Navarro’s sentiment by arguing that Trump’s past comments that likened the novel coronavirus to the seasonal flu was like being in “the fog of war.”
After Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace refuted the characterization by bringing up how national security officials such as Robert O’Brien and Matthew Pottinger warned that COVID-19 would become a deadly pandemic, Cortes blamed Dr. Anthony Fauci for his comments in late February and said that “opinions and views and analyses were shifting dramatically among the scientists, among the politicians this entire time, as we were trying to learn about the virus.”
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller
During an interview on ABC News, Miller touted Trump for “accurately saying that Americans are starting to safely and responsibly reopen all around the country,” before going on to claim that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wants “everyone to stay locked in their basement forever.”
When asked what evidence he has for that claim, Miller pointed to Biden’s remark on ABC News last month that if elected, the former VP would be willing to shut down the country again if there is a second wave of the novel coronavirus and scientists recommend the move to reduce its spread.
“What we need is to safely and responsibly move forward and developing this vaccine is absolutely critical,” Miller said, while railing against the Biden campaign for “casting doubt” over a Trumpian half-baked COVID-19 vaccine.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel
When asked during an interview on MSNBC’s Meet the Press about whether Trump downplayed COVID-19 for political reasons, McDaniel said that she disagreed with the notion and argued that the President “took political calculations into a global pandemic like we’ve never seen before that has decimated not just our country but countries across the world.”
“The President was calm and steady and methodical,” McDaniel said, citing how Trump set up the White House Coronavirus Task Force and restricted travel from China earlier this year.
McDaniel then echoed Trump’s admission to downplaying the severity of COVID-19 on purpose due to how he is “a cheerleader for this country.”
“Think of what would have happened if he’d have gone out and said, ‘This is awful. We should all be afraid. We don’t have a plan.’ It would have been a run on the banks,” McDaniel said. “It would have been a run on the hospitals. It would have been a run on the grocery stores. As it was, it was already hard to get some of the things we needed in the grocery stores.”
McDaniel reiterated that Trump was “calm and steady in a time of unrest and uncertainty” and said that she thinks “history will look back on him well as how he handled this pandemic.”