President Trump on Wednesday has acknowledged that he downplayed the novel coronavirus earlier this year, arguing that he wanted to "reduce panic" about the spreading disease by publicly minimizing its threat.
Trump's remarks to reporters came on Wednesday as he faced renewed scrutiny over his handling of the pandemic following the release of audio recordings of his interviews with Bob Woodward for the journalist's new book, according to MSN TV.
In the recordings, the president privately acknowledged that COVID-19 was "deadly" in early February, despite publicly dismissing concerns about the virus around that time.
"If you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so," Trump said Wednesday afternoon when asked if he downplayed the virus or misled the public to avoid panic.
"The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country," Trump continued. "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."
"We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation," he added.
Trump did not contest the idea that his efforts to downplay the threat of the virus was part of an intentional strategy.
"We don't want to have to show panic. We're not going to show panic, and that's exactly what I did," he said. "And I was very open, whether it's to Woodward or anybody else - it's just another political hit job - but whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you cannot show a sense of panic or you're going to have bigger than you ever had before."
The remarks marked Trump's first response to the uproar over his comments to Woodward in the journalist's forthcoming book, "Rage," due out next week, and have made the highlight of the US media and social networks as well as the international ones. Audio recordings from Woodward's interviews with Trump were released earlier Wednesday. In them, Trump tells Woodward that he "wanted to always play [the virus] down" to avoid creating a panic.
As of September 6, 2020, the number of both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the COVID-19 disease reported in the United States had reached over 6.2 million with over 188 thousand deaths reported among these cases, according to statista.com on September 7. The risk of infection remains high, and daily new cases hit record numbers in July 2020. Underlying health conditions can worsen cases of coronavirus, and case fatality rates among confirmed COVID-19 patients increase with age. In New York City, the death rate for adults aged 65 to 74 is estimated to be around 674 per 100,000 people. /argumentum.al