Listen to Trump privately say in February that the coronavirus is 'more deadly' than the worst flu as he publicly lied about the threat

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  • Trump knew far more about the threat of COVID-19 than he publicly acknowledged in the early months of the outbreak, newly released recordings revealed.

  • In conversations with veteran journalist Bob Woodward, the president said the virus was "more deadly" than the worst flus.

  • Publicly, Trump said the virus was under control and nothing to worry about.

  • Listen to parts of the interviews between Trump and Woodward below.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Recordings of interviews between President Donald Trump and veteran journalist Bob Woodward show that the commander in chief knew far more about the deadly threat posed by COVID-19 earlier than he publicly acknowledged.

The recordings, conducted as part of a series of interviews for Woodward's upcoming book, "Rage," show that Trump repeatedly lied to the American people as he downplayed the threat of the virus.

On February 7, as he told the public that the virus was nothing to worry about, Trump said to Woodward: "It goes through the air. That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."

Listen to the conversation below:

In the days before and after his early February conversation with Woodward, the president sang a much different tune to the public. Less than a month after telling Woodward that COVID-19 was deadlier than the worst flus, he told Americans the virus was "like a flu."

Trump told Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the threat of COVID-19.

The president said he wanted to avoid inducing panic.

"I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic," Trump told Woodward on March 19.

Listen below:

The US has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, with the highest number of recorded cases (over 6.3 million) and confirmed deaths (nearly 190,000).

Public-health experts have excoriated Trump over his handling of the pandemic, saying that it had a detrimental impact on the country's response.

As previously reported by Insider, here's a timeline of Trump's statements and efforts to downplay the coronavirus, which arrived in the US in late January:

  • January 22: "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China."

  • January 24: "It will all work out well."

  • February 2: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China."

  • February 19: "I think it's going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let's see what happens, but I think it's going to work out fine."

  • February 24: "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

  • February 26: "Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low…When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done."

  • February 28: "It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle; it will disappear."

  • March 7: "It came out of China, and we heard about it. And made a good move: We closed it down; we stopped it. Otherwise — the head of CDC said last night that you would have thousands of more problems if we didn't shut it down very early. That was a very early shutdown, which is something we got right."

  • March 9: "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

  • March 10: "It hit the world. And we're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away."

  • March 12: "It's going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you're seeing coming out of other countries, it's pretty amazing when you think of it."

  • March 23: "America will again and soon be open for business…Parts of our country are very lightly affected."

  • March 26: "They have to go back to work; our country has to go back. Our country is based on that, and I think it's going to happen pretty quickly."

  • March 29: "So you're talking about 2.2 million deaths — 2.2 million people from this. And so, if we can hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000 — that's a horrible number — maybe even less, but to 100,000; so we have between 100 and 200,000 — we all, together, have done a very good job. But 2.2, up to 2.2 million deaths and maybe even beyond that. I'm feeling very good about what we did last week."

  • March 30: "New York is really in trouble, but I think it's going to end up being fine. We're loading it up, we're stocking it up ... And then by a little short of June, maybe June 1, we think the — you know, it's a terrible thing to say, but we think the deaths will be at a very low number. It'll be brought down to a very low number from right now, from where it's getting to reach its peak."

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