Science editor says Trump 'flat-out lied' about COVID-19, demoralizing scientific community

The editor of the leading academic journal Science wrote in an editorial published Friday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE "flat-out lied" to the American people based on comments revealed this week to journalist Bob Woodward.

"As he was playing down the virus to the public, Trump was not confused or inadequately briefed: He flat-out lied, repeatedly, about science to the American people," wrote the editor, H. Holden Thorp. "These lies demoralized the scientific community and cost countless lives in the United States."

Thorp pointed to tapes of Trump telling Woodward in early February that coronavirus was much more deadly than the flu, at a time when publicly Trump was explicitly comparing the virus to the flu.

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Trump later told Woodward in March: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.”

Thorp wrote Friday that "playing it down meant lying about the fact that he knew the country was in grave danger."

"A U.S. president has deliberately lied about science in a way that was imminently dangerous to human health and directly led to widespread deaths of Americans," Thorp added. "This may be the most shameful moment in the history of U.S. science policy."

Trump defended his response to the virus during a press conference Wednesday, saying when asked if he "misled" the public: “I think if you said ‘in order to reduce panic,’ perhaps that’s so.”

The president maintained that he is a "cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened."

Asked to respond to the Science editorial, White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said: “The suggestion that President Trump misled the public or concealed information that cost lives is an absurd proposition."

"He has always put the health of the American people first as evidenced by his early response in January when he issued a travel ban on China, declared a public health emergency, and created the coronavirus task force," she added. "During times of crisis, people want a leader who will make decisive actions in a calm manner and as the President noted he didn’t want to induce unnecessary panic and was seeking to calm the nation.”