Journalist Bob Woodward released another damning recording Monday night of an interview with Donald Trump that demonstrated how seriously the president viewed the coronavirus in private while he publicly pushed to reopen businesses.
The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter shared the audio interview excerpt during an appearance on “The Late Show” with host Stephen Colbert. Woodward conducted 18 taped interviews with the president for his forthcoming book, “Rage.”
In the April 13 recording, Trump told Woodward that the coronavirus is “so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t believe it,” and he shared an anecdote about his effort to avoid infection after he was in the same room with a person who sneezed.
“I was in the White House a couple of days ago, meeting with 10 people in the Oval Office, and a guy sneezed ― innocently, not a horrible, you know just a sneeze. The entire room bailed out, OK? Including me, by the way.”
Publicly, on April 13, Trump was pushing to relax social distancing measures and reopen businesses across the country. He also threatened governors who might not comply with what he incorrectly called his “total” authority to force state economies to restart.
Woodward wondered on Monday’s segment if Trump would feel the same way if a front-row attendee at his packed indoor campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, on Sunday night had sneezed. Trump held the event for thousands of guests despite it breaking local laws limiting gatherings to 50 people.
As Woodward reflected on the gravity of Trump’s April remarks, he pointed to his reporting that indicated Trump was given specifics in the Oval Office on Jan. 28 about the severity of the pandemic but continued to downplay it. As of Monday night, more than 194,000 people had died of COVID-19 in the U.S.
“I once asked him, what’s the job of the president? He said the job is to protect the people. I agree. I think most people in the country would,” Woodward said. “He failed to protect the people. He failed to find a way to tell the truth.”
Trump has faced a firestorm of criticism over his confession to Woodward that he deliberately misled Americans about the threat of coronavirus. He admitted on tape on Feb. 7 that the coronavirus was five times deadlier than the flu. Nevertheless, he continued to downplay it to the public, resist imposing mitigation measures, claim it would magically disappear and then urge schools and businesses to reopen.
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