Trump says he ‘up-played’ virus after telling Woodward he wanted to ‘play it down’

'I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be okay,' Trump said during Tuesday’s town hall on ABC. 'We’re going to be okay, and it is going away.'

President Donald Trump speaks to the press prior to his departure from the White House to Philadelphia to participate in an ABC News town hall event. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Despite saying in his own words that he downplayed the severity of COVID-19 and the threat it posed to Americans, President Donald Trump is now saying the exact opposite.

In a town hall forum conducted by ABC News which featured a small audience of undecided voters who asked difficult questions of the president, he maintained, “I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action.”

“My action was very strong,” Trump said.

Trump’s response was to a Black student who asked, “If you believe it’s the president’s responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?”

When she tried to clarify, saying, “Did you not admit to it yourself, saying that you …” the president cut her off. He then cited his decision to “ban” travel to the U.S. from China in late January and to bar most travel from Europe in March as the signs of his strong decision making.

“We did a very good job when we put that ban on,” Trump said.

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“Whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important,” he continued, “so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who hosted the town hall, noted, “There were holes in the ban, and the European ban didn’t come for another month.”

The president replied, “Well, they were Americans. I mean the holes in where if you have somebody in China that’s an American citizen, we had to let them in.”

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More than 27,000 Americans returned from mainland China in the first month after the restrictions took effect.

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward released several clips of his 18 interviews with the president that was part of his research for his new book, “Rage.” In one interview, Trump says of the coronavirus, “I wanted to always play it down … I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

“I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be okay. We’re going to be okay, and it is going away,” Trump said during Tuesday’s town hall.

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“And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines,” he contended. “It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.”

More than 196,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, including more than 1,200 on the day of the president’s town hall.

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