Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out as a reporter suggested he lied to the American people about the severity of the coronavirus and how it spreads as he continued to be dogged by his own words in private conversations caught on tape.
“There’s no lie here. What we’re doing is we’re leading,” the president said after telling ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl his question about why the president told a “lie” to his country was a “terrible question” and the journalist is a “disgrace” to his employer.
Mr Trump can be heard on recordings made by The Washington Post journalist and author saying as early as 7 February that he knew the virus spread between humans in the air. At the same time, he was downplaying the virus publicly and discarding calls for fast coverings. He can be heard telling Mr Woodward that he was purposely downplaying the virus in his public remarks. The president is defending that statement by contending he did so to sow “calm” and avoid “panic.”
“If he thought that was a bad statement, he would have reported it,” Mr Trump told Mr Karl on Thursday about Mr Woodward. “No one thought it was bad.”
His Democratic general election foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, and other members of his party think it was a “bad” statement, with Mr Bidebn on Wednesday calling it a “dereliction" of the president’s duty.
Confronted on the issue by reporters for a second consecutive day, Mr Trump fired back at the ABC News reporters.
“The way you phrased that is such a disgrace,” Mr Trump snapped. “It’s a disgrace to ABC Television.”
The president continued denying he lied to his countrymen and countrywomen, but he made no illusions about his desire to keep people calm.
“Outwardly, I said it’s a very serious problem. That doesn’t mean I’m going to jump up and down in the air saying, ‘People will die! People will die!’”
What’s more, for the second time this week, he said the country is “rounding the turn” in combating the disease. That came as the death toll rose on Thursday to over 191,500. But, as the president noted, both the case and death rates are dropping across the country.
Mr Trump noted cases are spiking in many European countries, which he said proves his approach was “great.”
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