Audio: Trump knew virus was deadly, worse than flu in February, later said he 'downplayed' pandemic

Audio: Trump knew virus was deadly, worse than flu in February, later said he 'downplayed' pandemic
Posted at 10:03 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 15:17:12-04

President Donald Trump knew weeks before the coronavirus was confirmed to have reached the United States that the virus was dangerous and "deadly," while making public statements in which he downplayed the severity of the disease, according to audio files obtained by CNN.

The audio files were made by journalist Bob Woodward, during several conversations with Trump in early 2020. Woodward is publishing a book about Trump later this month. The Washington Post also confirmed that Woodward's book contains reporting about Trump downplaying the severity of the virus.

According to the audio files published by CNN, Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7 that the coronavirus was reported to have airborne transmission and that COVID-19 was more deadly than a "strenuous flu."

That same day, Trump tweeted that he had a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which he claimed that China was running a "very successful operation," and that the virus would be "gone" once the weather gone warmer. On March 9, Trump compared coronavirus the flu in a tweet, adding that "nothing is shutting down."

CNN also published audio files from Woodward taken on March 19, in which Trump admitted that "it's not just old people" who are being infected by the virus. He also told Woodward that he "always wanted to play it down," because he "didn't want to create a panic."

When asked during a Wednesday briefing if Trump ever "intentionally misled" Americans regarding the severity of COVID-19 White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied the claims, pointing to the fact that Trump said he wanted to "avoid chaos."

"It's important to express confidence, it's important to express calm," McEnany said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded to the reports on Wednesday afternoon, calling Trump's decision to downplay the virus "a life and death betrayal to the American people."

More than 6 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and more than 190,000 have died — both of which lead the world.

Woodward's book, Rage, will be released on Sept. 15.

Coronavirus Testing Sites - Kern County

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State-Provided Sites
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Kern County Fairgrounds
1142 South P Street, Building 4, Access Gate 27

Rosamond Library
3611 Rosamond Blvd, Rosamond CA 93560

Arvin Public Health
204 S Hill Street, Arvin

Wasco Library
1102 7th Street

County-Provided Sites
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Oildale - Good Samaritan Hospital
901 Olive Drive, Bakersfield
  • For Registration call (661) 215-7725
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Monday - Friday 8 am - 8 pm, Saturday 8 am - 12 pm

Ridgecrest - Ridgecrest Regional Hospital
1081 N. China Lake Blvd, Ridgecrest
  • For Registration: Text the word "testing" to 833-774-4968 Or Call 866-774-9984
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 10:30 am

Delano - Delano Regional Medical Center
1401 Garces Hwy, Delano
  • No Drive-Thru option
  • Hours: Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm

Kern River Valley - Kern Valley Hospital
6412 Laurel Ave, Mt Mesa Wheelchair Logo
  • For Registration call (760) 379-2681 ext 267
  • Drive-Thru Only
  • Hours: Wednesday - Thursday from 7 am - 2 pm.
Tehachapi - Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley
1100 Magellan Dr 93561

Lamont - Kern County Library
8304 Segrue Road, Lamont, CA 93241
  • For registration call 661-869-6018
  • Drive-Thru and Walk-Up<
  • Testing available for ages 5+ only; parents must be present and give consent for children
  • Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 9 am - 2 pm; Tuesday, Thursday 2 pm - 7 pm

Taft - West Side Health Care District
  • For Registration call (661) 765-1935
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  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9 am – 1 pm & 3 pm – 7 pm; Saturday 11 am – 3 pm