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CNN host has heated exchange with GOP senator: 'I'm not going to let you do this'

CNN’s Pamela Brown on Wednesday got into a heated exchange with Republican Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) after he deflected questions about President Trump saying he downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic's severity in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward

“Senator, President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE told Bob Woodward the first week of February that he knew the coronavirus could be spread through the air and that it was more deadly than the flu, but two weeks later he said at a rally that coronavirus was the Democrats' new hoax,” Brown said to Kennedy. “Is that acceptable to you? Is that misleading the public?”

“All I can do is share with you my point of view, Pamela,” Kennedy responded. “These gotcha books don’t really interest me that much—”

“He’s on the record,” Brown replied.

“These gotcha books don’t really interest me that much,” Kennedy continued. “There will be a new one out tomorrow.”

Brown then pointed out that these revelations from Trump came from recorded interviews with Woodward, portions of which were played by CNN and MSNBC and released on The Washington Post website. 

“You hear his voice, and you’re seeing that and contrasting that with what he says to the public,” Brown said. “Wouldn’t that be something of interest to you as a United States senator?”

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Kennedy called Woodward’s new book “gotcha” journalism, to which Brown responded with more questions.

“Didn’t the public and didn’t the citizens in your home state of Louisiana deserve to know that as well, so that they could change their behavior appropriately to protect themselves?” Brown asked, referring to Trump's privately held views of the coronavirus. 

“Well, No. 1, Pamela, I’m not going to repeat what I just said,” Kennedy responded. “But all I can tell you is what my personal experience has been. No. 2, let me say a word about this infatuation in Washington with who said what to whom. I learned pretty quickly up here—”

“No, senator. I’m sorry, I’m not going to let you do this,” Brown interrupted. “I understand there's so much politics right now. We’re two months away from an election, but this is life and death.

“You have 5,000 people that have died in Louisiana from coronavirus,” Brown continued. “Republicans are reluctant, as you are now, to ever criticize this president, but as a human being, how can you be OK with this?”

“Well if I could finish my answer ... I have learned in Washington, D.C., I'm sort of existential or Sartrean about Washington, D.C.,” Kennedy explained. “To be is to act. You learn pretty quickly not to judge people by what they say, you have to judge them by what they do.”

“And all I can tell you, Pamela, is what my personal experience has been, and that is that this administration has been very responsive early on,” Kennedy added. “We were the first ones hit after New York, both to the coronavirus and to the damage we’ve done to our economy. Now, I understand some people disagree with that, but that’s honestly my experience.” 

The Louisiana Department of Health reported close to 500 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, as well as 21 deaths. 

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced Thursday morning the state will be moving into its third phase of coronavirus restrictions on Friday, adding that while some limits will be lifted, the mandatory mask mandate will remain in place until further notice.