Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said President Donald Trump is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans for failing to adequately warn about the danger from the coronavirus after CNN aired recordings of the president saying he intentionally played down the threat.
“He knew how deadly it was. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed for months,” Biden said in Michigan ahead of a speech on the economy. “He failed to do his job, on purpose!” he said, adding that the decision cost “tens of thousands of lives and millions more of American livelihoods.”
CNN Wednesday aired excerpts from several interviews Trump gave author Bob Woodward for his upcoming book, “Rage.”
Trump told Woodward in February that the virus would be “deadly” and difficult to manage because it is airborne.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
Around that time, Trump was telling Americans that the coronavirus was no worse than a seasonal flu and insisting that it would soon “disappear.” It wasn’t until several weeks later that he publicly acknowledged that the virus was not like the flu. He told Woodward on March 19 that he downplayed the danger intentionally to avoid panics.
“I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” the president said on March 19.
Earlier Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany denied the president misled the American people.
“Absolutely not, this president, at a time when you’re facing insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence. It’s important to express calm,” she said.
Biden called the revelation “beyond despicable.”
Woodward and Trump also discussed the ongoing protests over policing and race relations in the U.S.
On June 3, two days after federal law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters so Trump could pose for a picture outside a nearby church, Trump called Woodward.
“We’re going to get ready to send in the military slash National Guard to some of these poor bastards that don’t know what they’re doing, these poor radical lefts,” Trump said.
A few weeks later, Woodward asked the president about White privilege and whether as two White men they had a responsibility to better “understand the anger and pain” felt by Black Americans.
“No,” Trump replied. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”
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