President Donald Trump on Wednesday pushed back against revelations that he downplayed the coronavirus' severity throughout the pandemic, saying he acted in ways to reduce panic among Americans.
The last thing you want to do is create a panic, he said, according to Reuters.
He also ripped into journalist Bob Woodward's new book, source of the revelations, as "just another political hit job, according to a report by Fox News.
The remarks at the White House came after recordings, obtained by CNN and based on a new book titled "Rage" by journalist Bob Woodward, unveiled earlier on Wednesday showed that Trump acknowledged in February he knew how deadly and contagious the novel coronavirus was but played it down to keep a lid on public alarm.
When pressed to address his reported coronavirus comments during an afternoon event at the White House, the president stood by his contention that the goal was to convey a sense of calm.
"You cannot show a sense of panic," the president said, according to the Fox report.
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany hit many of the same notes, saying, “When you are facing insurmountable challenges, it is important to express confidence, it is important to express calm.”
The Washington Post's Woodward, of Watergate reporting fame, interviewed Trump on multiple occasions earlier this year for his new book "Rage," which will be released Sept. 15.
The newspaper posted several excerpts of the book and audio files containing snippets of Woodward's interviews with the president, which indicate that as Trump was trying to downplay the virus to the American people, he was expressing his concerns in private.
In a March 19 exchange, Trump said he tried to avoid creating a "panic."
"Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old- older. ... Young people too, plenty of young people," Trump said.
"Well I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you ... I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
More than a month earlier on Feb. 7 as the coronavirus was spreading worldwide, Trump said the virus had a higher death rate than the flu.
"It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, 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," Trump said.
"And so, that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your — you know, your, even your strenuous flus. You know, people don't realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?"
Newsmax's Jason Devaney contributed to this report.
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