Journalist Bob Woodward said President Trump’s false claim at a town hall this week that he never sought to downplay the threat of the coronavirus shows Trump has “lost his way, not just as president but as a human being trying to assess what’s real and what’s unreal.”
In a wide-ranging live interview with Yahoo News Editor in Chief Daniel Klaidman and Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff for the “Skullduggery” podcast Thursday, Woodward said Trump’s assertion during the ABC town hall that he “up-played” the threat of COVID-19 to Americans was “so confusing, it makes you dizzy.”
“This idea of up-playing, I don’t think that’s even a word,” Woodward said. “Now it will be in one of those slang dictionaries.”
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said, adding: “This is deadly stuff.”
But publicly, Trump sought to downplay the virus, which he acknowledged in another interview with Woodward on March 19.
“I wanted to always play it down,” he said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
On “Skullduggery,” Woodward called Trump’s efforts to conceal his knowledge of the virus from the public “one of the most tragic, outrageous acts by a sitting president in, maybe in history.”
Woodward has faced sharp criticism for not disclosing Trump’s private recognition of the danger posed by the coronavirus months ago, when it might have affected the course of the pandemic.
He said that at the time of Trump’s Feb. 7 comments, there were few cases in the U.S. of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China.
“It was a China story,” Woodward said. And when Trump acknowledged he was downplaying the threat of COVID-19 in late March, Woodward said the public already knew how infectious it was.
Woodward, who conducted 19 on-the-record interviews with Trump for the book, said he asked Trump at one point what he considered to be the job of the president.
“He said, ‘To protect the people, that is job No. 1,’” Woodward recalled. “‘Job No. 2 is to tell the truth.’”
Woodward said Trump’s failure to do either of those “saddens” him.
And it’s also why the legendary author, who has written books on presidents dating back to Richard Nixon, said he felt a responsibility to conclude his latest with the assessment that Trump is “the wrong man for the job.”
“You can’t duck what is an obvious conclusion,” Woodward said.
Read more from Yahoo News: