Coronavirus White House Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci vouched for President Donald Trump after a new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward accused Trump of publicly downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus while privately acknowledging that it was much more serious.
In a Wednesday Fox News interview, Fauci said Trump’s press conferences in March were fairly consistent with what the task force was telling him.
“I didn’t see any discrepancies between what he told us and what we told him and what he ultimately came out publicly and said,” Fauci told John Roberts. “He really didn’t say anything different than we discussed when we were with him.”
Fauci acknowledged that he was only one person of many to which Trump spoke and was sharing his own personal experience of their conversations.
Trump was expressing hope in statements about COVID-19
Fauci also said he could understand why Trump would “want to make sure the country wouldn’t get down and out about things,” but said that was different from distorting the truth. “I don’t recall anything that was a gross distortion in anything I spoke to him about,” he added.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also denied on Wednesday that Trump misled the American people about the outbreak, saying that the president merely wanted to maintain a hopeful and confident tone.
“At a time when you’re facing insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence, it’s important to express calm,” McEnany told reporters.
“The president has never lied to the American public on COVID. The president was expressing calm and his actions reflect that,” she continued.
Woodward book tries to paint Trump as liar
Woodward has released recordings of interviews that he had with Trump starting in February that make it seem like Trump was lying about the seriousness of the coronavirus, especially in February and March.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in a March interview, The Hill reported. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
In a February interview, Trump said that the virus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” Woodward contrasts this with Trump publicly saying that he thought the virus cases would be “close to zero” soon.
But let’s be real: the two viewpoints are not mutually exclusive. The virus was especially deadly in its early days when no one had yet been exposed to it and doctors didn’t know what treatments worked best, but that doesn’t mean Trump didn’t honestly think it could be better contained and would recede quickly, as it seemed to do in Wuhan.
Of course, the press has to hit Trump with everything they’ve got from now until the election, because they know he’s a pretty strong candidate for re-election and they’re desperate not to see that happen.