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Famed reporter Bob Woodward is facing criticism for not promptly sharing with the public what the president told him about the coronavirus and the government’s response in a series of interviews earlier this year.
Woodward’s new book, Anger, detailing the interviews, will be released on Tuesday.
In a telephone interview on Feb.7, President Trump shared with Woodward that the virus is airborne and is “more deadly than even your strenuous influences.”
Yet the following month, Trump publicly compared COVID-19 to seasonal flu.
But Woodward told NPR All things considered guest Mary Louise Kelly in an interview in February who thought Trump was referring to the virus in China.
“I … I thought he was talking about the virus in China, because he had talked to Chinese President Xi [Jinping] the night before, “he said.
Woodward said he had unsuccessfully attempted to access the transcript of the call between the two world leaders to confirm that it was Xi who provided Trump with that information about the virus.
In March, Woodward told NPR, the virus was clearly an “American problem” as well.
“And so I ask myself the question, what did the president know, when did he know and how did he know? And I worked for two and a half months to find out and it was finally in May when I found out there was this meeting, January 28th. , in the Oval Office. “
That January meeting is the opening scene of Anger, in which Woodward says National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien tells Trump that the coronavirus would be the “biggest national security threat you face during your presidency.”
“I would like to know what I learned in May earlier. Unfortunately, I didn’t know,” Woodward said.
He added: “I have been doing this for nearly 50 years and I think I have a responsibility for public health, as every citizen does – or maybe a journalist has more responsibility. If at any point I thought there was something to say to the American people that they don’t know, I would. “
In a March interview, Trump admitted to Woodward that he downplayed the severity of the virus.
“I always wanted to belittle,” Trump told Woodward on March 19. “I still like to belittle, because I don’t want to panic.”
Trump has since defended his decision to mislead the public about the severity of the coronavirus, saying he wanted to project “force.”
“What I went out and said is very simple: I want to show a level of confidence, I want to show strength as a leader, and I want to show that our country will do well one way or another,” Trump said at a conference Thursday. print.
More than 190,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus.
Woodward told Kelly, “If there’s a tragedy in all of this and I think there is, it’s that Trump who said, ‘I wanted to belittle, because I didn’t want to panic.’ And my nine presidents study, 20 % of the presidents we have had, and the previous story is when the country is told the truth, they don’t panic. “
Woodward reflected on another call from Trump in early April in which he hung up “feeling worried about the country.”
“I said [to Trump] … “This is a time of crisis and need, you have a leadership responsibility … you will be judged by the virus,” “recalls Woodward.
“I was pushing him to face it, frankly … and at the end of the book, I say in total: Trump is the wrong man for the job.”
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, called the president’s actions a “betrayal of the American people.”
“He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while the deadly disease has torn our nation apart, he failed to do his job on purpose,” he said Thursday during an election campaign in Michigan.
For the book, Woodward conducted 17 recorded interviews with Trump, from December to late July, on the economy, race relations and foreign policy.
Woodward told NPR’s Kelly that the war between the US and North Korea has gotten much closer than many thought in 2017.
“It got to the point … that then Secretary of Defense James Mattis would go to the National Cathedral to pray and reflect on what his responsibility would be if there was some sort of nuclear exchange with North Korea. very risky, “he added. He said.