Biden campaign jumps on Woodward interview to pin COVID deaths on Trump's 'playing it down'

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As the revelations by journalist Bob Woodward of how President Trump misled the American people about the severity of the coronavirus reverberated this week, the Biden campaign did its best to keep the story alive with scathing digital advertising.

Early excerpts and audio files from “Rage,” Woodward’s new account of the Trump presidency, show Trump admitting to downplaying the severity of the coronavirus as early as March to avoid creating “panic.” Public health experts believe the resulting misinformation and confusion contributed to the spread of the disease, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward in a taped conversation on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the parking lot outside the United Auto Workers Region 1 offices on September 09, 2020 in Warren, Michigan. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One day after the first accounts appeared on Wednesday, the Biden campaign released a pair of digital ads accusing the president of abdicating his responsibilities and allowing Americans to die on his watch. One approximately 20-second ad posted to Instagram has an audio clip of Trump talking about “playing it down,” intercut with video of emergency room intubations and PPE-clad medical workers. “Trump knew. Trump lied,” the ad reads, as a ticker of the death toll accelerates.

Another 30-second ad posted to Biden’s Twitter feed splices together more of Trump’s coronavirus interview over footage of medical workers and patients on gurneys.

The tweet reads: “Donald Trump knew that COVID-19 was dangerous. He knew it was deadly. And he purposely downplayed it. Now, nearly 200,000 Americans are dead. It’s unconscionable.”

The Biden campaign was just as quick last week to cut an ad based on the Atlantic’s bombshell story of Trump disparaging Americans killed in combat as “suckers” and “losers.” But that story, which the White House has disputed, was based on secondhand accounts by unnamed sources, not tapes of the president’s own voice.

Biden’s campaign pulled television advertising Friday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Biden said earlier this week that the Woodward interview reveals that Trump “failed to do his job on purpose.”

The White House and Trump contend that they did not mislead the public but did not deny that he downplayed the gravity of COVID-19.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
President Trump at a news conference on Thursday. (Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“I can’t be jumping up and down and scaring people,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday night. “I don’t want to scare people.”

Trump said that if Woodward had found his statements shocking or life-threatening, the journalist would have made them public sooner. That Woodward kept them to himself for months, Trump added, is proof that many others are blowing his remarks out of proportion.

He tweeted: “Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”


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