Tapes Show Trump Knew Coronavirus Was Deadly While Downplaying the Risk in Public
President Trump admitted to downplaying the risk of the coronavirus after tapes were released of him acknowledging the dangers to journalist Bob Woodward. The tapes from February and March for Woodward's new book "Rage" show that the president's private conversations stood in stark contrast to what he was telling the public, as The New York Times reported.
The released tapes fueled outrage as they show a president clearly aware that the virus was extremely dangerous, but intentionally downplaying its risk and holding gatherings where people stood in close proximity to each other. Now that the virus has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and nearly 900,000 people worldwide, critics are questioning why Trump deceived the public about the virus' spread.
As The Washington Post reported, in a tape from a phone call on Feb. 7, Trump said, "You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
For emphasis, he added, "This is deadly stuff."
Trump then held several interviews with the news media where he said the U.S. had the virus under control. On a March 19 call with Woodward, Trump admitted to downplaying the virus as well.
"I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down," Trump said on tape, as POLITICO reported. "Because I don't want to create a panic."
Trump was asked Wednesday about his decision and was reminded that the virus' death toll is near 200,000 in the U.S.
"Well, I think if you said 'in order to reduce panic,' perhaps that's so," Trump said, as Yahoo News reported. "The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country, and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic, 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."
Democrats swiftly noted that other world leaders were less concerned about being a cheerleader and took decisive, preemptive actions to reduce the risk of transmission.
"He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months," Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in front of the United Auto Workers training facility in Michigan Wednesday, as The Washington Post reported.
The timeline of Trump's actions shows a pattern of deception well after he knew the virus was airborne and far more deadly than the flu. And yet, weeks after admitting that to Woodward, Trump said to reporters at the end of February, "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
And then on Feb. 28, at a rally in South Carolina, Trump dismissed the virus as the Democrats' "new hoax."
Even though Trump tells Woodward on the tapes that he intentionally played down the virus because he didn't want to create a panic, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters with a straight face Wednesday that the president had not deceived the American public at all about the coronavirus.
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.