Story at a glance

  • Trump told Woodward that “this thing [the coronavirus] is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance.”
  • Trump made the comments three days after he tweeted that the virus “will soon be in full retreat!”
  • Four days after the conversation, Trump appeared to back protesters in three states who gathered in opposition of extended stay-at-home orders and other restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Newly released audio of a mid-April phone call between President Trump and veteran journalist Bob Woodward reveals the president privately called the coronavirus a “killer,” days before he called for states that recently imposed public health measures to slow the spread of the virus to be liberated. 


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In audio obtained by CNN from the April 13 call, Trump told Woodward that “[the coronavirus] is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance.”

“So this rips you apart,” Trump said. “It is the plague.” 

Trump made the comments three days after he tweeted that the virus “will soon be in full retreat!” 

Four days after the conversation, Trump appeared to back protesters in three states who gathered in opposition of extended stay-at-home orders and other restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Trump tweeted, followed by the call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” 

Trump gave numerous interviews with Woodward for the journalist’s new book titled “Rage.” Recordings of the interviews were released last week and prompted accusations that the president misled the American public about the severity of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. 


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In the recordings, Trump privately acknowledged in early February that the coronavirus was “deadly,” while dismissing concerns publicly around the same time. Trump also told Woodward that he “wanted to always play [the virus] down” to avoid creating a panic. 

Trump said that “perhaps” he misled the public or downplayed the threat of the virus to “reduce panic” when asked about the audio last week. 

“The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.” 

The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. More than 6.5 million Americans have confirmed COVID-19 infections and nearly 195,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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Published on Sep 15, 2020