Trump slams Woodward: If remarks were bad, why didn’t he ‘immediately report them’

President Trump on Thursday criticized Bob Woodward, writing that if the famed Watergate journalist really thought Trump’s comments acknowledging he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus were “bad and dangerous,” Woodward would have not have held the quotes for months. 

“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?” Trump tweeted. “Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

The new argument comes as the president faces criticism from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and others for the remarks in the Woodward interviews from February and March for the forthcoming book “Rage.” 

In the interviews, Trump acknowledged that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff” and said that he “wanted to always play it down” so as not to create panic. 

Trump told Woodward that the coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu” in a private, on-the-record Feb. 7 interview but publicly minimized the threat, likening it to the seasonal flu and predicting that the number of cases would soon be “close to zero.” 

Some journalists and other figures have argued that Woodward should have come forward sooner with the revelations for the public good. The coronavirus has infected more than 6.3 million Americans in total and resulted in more than 190,000 U.S. deaths.

Trump appeared to make a different argument in his tweet on Thursday, suggesting Woodward’s decision not to publicize the remarks at the time implicitly proved there was nothing wrong with them. 

Woodward has defended the decision to withhold Trump’s remarks, telling The Associated Press he needed time to ensure that the president’s comments were accurate. 

“He tells me this, and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s interesting, but is it true?’ Trump says things that don’t check out, right?” Woodward told the AP in an interview Thursday, adding that his mission was to determine: “What did he know and when did he know it?”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted to reporters Wednesday that Trump did not deliberately mislead the public on the virus and only sought to instill calm, at one point saying Trump did not “downplay” the virus — directly contradicting the president’s own words in the March 19 Woodward interview. 

Trump, meanwhile, defended his remarks to Woodward in an exchange with reporters Wednesday afternoon, saying he downplayed the virus in order to project “confidence.” 

“The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and 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,” Trump said. “We want to show confidence.  We want to show strength.  We want to show strength as a nation.” 

Trump has repeatedly criticized Woodward in the hours since the revelations, dismissing him as a “rapidly fading” reporter who wrote a “boring book” in a tweet late Wednesday. Trump also told Fox News personality Sean Hannity in a phone interview that he “almost definitely” won’t read Woodward’s book while defending his decision to sit for 18 interviews with the journalist. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Joe Biden Sean Hannity Woodward book

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