WH Denies Trump Downplayed COVID-19 Despite Audio Proving He Did

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on September 9, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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September 9, 2020 3:11 p.m.
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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday vehemently defended President Trump just hours after reports on journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book “Rage” recounted Trump admission that he downplayed the risk of COVID-19 publicly.

According to multiple reports on Wednesday, Woodward reported that Trump privately expressed fear over COVID-19 after being warned by national security officials in late January that COVID-19 would be the worst pandemic in a century.

However, the President would go on to spend the following weeks downplaying the threat of COVID-19 as cases began to spread throughout the country. During a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in late February, Trump suggested that the novel coronavirus would be less deadly than the flu. Trump expressed a similar sentiment again during another White House briefing in mid-March, when he told reporters that the novel coronavirus is “going to disappear.”

In his forthcoming book, Woodward wrote that Trump told him on March 19 that he “wanted to always play it down.” Woodward recorded the President on tape as he made the remark. It was among 18 interviews he conducted with Trump spanning from Dec. 2019 to July.

When pressed on Trump’s COVID-19 soft-pedaling captured in Woodward’s book during a White House briefing on Wednesday, McEnany denied that the President misled Americans about the pandemic, which has so far cost the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans. She argued that he wanted to “express calm.”

“Absolutely not,” McEnany said. “When you are finding insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence and express calm.”

Pressed again on whether “playing it down” expresses calm, McEnany butted heads with CBS reporter Paula Reid as she asked her to read the rest of Trump’s quote in Woodward’s book.

“He makes clear he doesn’t want to see chaos is the second part of the quote which you failed to read,” McEnany said, before pointing to Trump telling reporters during a press conference at the White House on March 30 that he wants the public to “stay calm” and that “we are doing a great job.”

“If you look at the individual statements, they are all true — stay calm,” McEnany said. “It will go away, but it’s important to stay calm. This president does what leaders do, good leaders. It’s stay calm and resolute at a time when you face an insurmountable challenge.”

Asked whether the President lied to the American public about the threat posed by COVID-19, McEnany insisted that the President “has never lied to the American public on COVID” before again reiterating that he was “expressing calm and his actions reflect that.”

Watch McEnany’s remarks below:

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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