In newly released interviews from journalist Bob Woodward's forthcoming book "Rage," US President Donald Trump privately acknowledged the severity of the pandemic even as he played it down in public. (Sept. 10)
- Did you mislead the public by saying, and you downplayed the coronavirus?
JONATHAN LEMIRE: But this is a case where Trump himself wanted to shape the narrative. And while the book isn't out yet, at least the early headlines aren't very contract It's sort of a rite of passage in Washington where a president will talk to Bob Woodward and then later be unhappy with the book, because Woodward, of course, takes a critical eye. He's an observer, he's just dealing with the facts. But certainly George W Bush and Barack Obama also had issues with books that Woodward wrote. But this is different. And Trump himself is far more conscious or frankly obsessed with the media coverage he receives than any of his predecessors. We sees that every day on Twitter. He often delves into media critique.
DONALD TRUMP: Your stocks are going up. Your 401(k)s are through the roof.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: They're comfortable fighting on anything else except for the pandemic. As public opinion polls show, that Americans don't think the president has done a very good job. And by his comments, his own words. These are not anonymous sources. These are not administration officials on background. His own words caught on tape are again, highlighting the pandemic, putting it at center of the national discourse and raising all sorts of further concerns about how frankly, he has handled the largest health crisis this nation has faced in a century.
GRETCHEN WHITMER: I think the biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now. And it's devastating, and I do not relish saying that.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Many Democrats, other observers suggested this was the president being irresponsible, that the president misled the American public, that he needed to have been candid then, that perhaps if he had leveled with the American public back in February and March, people would have responded differently, and perhaps, lives could have been saved. The White House's response was the president was trying to avoid a panic, that he was trying to keep the calm, which is why he kept it from the American public.
DONALD TRUMP: And I was very open, whether it's to Woodward or anybody else, it's just another political hit job. But whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you can not show a sense of panic.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Because this revelation is about COVID-19, it is possible this will be damaging to him, this will hurt his electoral chances. It certainly can't help. But it remains to be seen whether or not this is a mortal blow to his re-election bid or whether we're simply talking about something else in 72 hours.