Journalist Bob Woodward said that President Trump “failed” by continuing to downplay the threat of COVID-19 early this year, even as he privately expressed fear over it to Woodward after being warned by national security officials in late January that COVID-19 would be the worst pandemic in a century.
Hours after reports on Woodward’s book were released, Trump admitted that he purposefully downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic in its early stages, despite privately acknowledging it was “deadly stuff,” because he is “a cheerleader for this country.”
Woodward, who spoke with Trump 18 times from December to July for his book, faced backlash on social media for not reporting on the President’s private COVID-19 concerns sooner as the country records more than 190,000 fatalities from the infectious disease.
In a phone interview with the AP on Wednesday, Woodward said that he needed time to ensure the accuracy of the President’s private comments from February.
The next day, Trump blamed Woodward for not taking the initiative to alert authorities after stating his private concerns on COVID-19 to the legendary journalist.
In a preview of his interview set to air on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Woodward was asked whether the President ever disclosed why he wasn’t telling the public what the stakes were with the coronavirus.
Woodward referred to Trump’s remarks during an interview on March 19, when the President said that he “wanted to always play it down” because he didn’t want to stir a “panic.”
Woodward added that he thinks Trump “did not understand the American public” by rationalizing that he didn’t “want to create a panic.”
“We know from history when the public is told the truth, they organize. ‘We have a problem, we’re going to step up,’’ Woodward said. “And Trump thought, ‘Oh, well, they’ll panic.’”
Woodward then argued that the President “failed” in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
“When there’s a crisis, when the President particularly, they know something, it’s time to tell the public in some form,” Woodward said. “He failed.”
When asked what Woodward meant when he wrote in his forthcoming book that Trump’s COVID-19 response “reflects his instincts, habits, and style,” Woodward replied “denial, making up his own facts.”
Watch Woodward’s remarks below: