WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump acknowledged in February he knew how deadly and contagious the novel coronavirus was but played it down because he did not want to create a panic, according to recordings of interviews done for a new book.
The recordings, obtained by CNN and based on a new book titled “Rage” by journalist Bob Woodward, come weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election and as Trump’s efforts to battle COVID-19 have come under intense criticism as being too little too late.
The Republican president, who has been hammered by Democratic opponent Joe Biden over the slow U.S. government response to the coronavirus, played down the virus for months as it took hold and spread quickly across the country.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, days after he declared a national emergency. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
According to the interviews, CNN and The Washington Post reported, Trump knew the virus was especially deadly in early February.
“It goes through the air,” Trump said in a recording of a Feb. 7 interview with Woodward. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, 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.”
Woodward conducted 18 interviews with Trump for the book, due to be released Sept 15. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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