In a series of recorded interviews with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, Donald Trump made a shocking admission: He repeatedly lied to the public about the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic, saying that all was well as the disease spread virtually unchecked throughout the country. “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, referring to the pandemic. Nearly 200,000 deaths from Coronavirus have been recorded in the United States and over 900,000 worldwide — numbers that are almost certainly an understatement due to a lack of testing and intentional miscounting by governments.
In private, Trump acknowledged the grave threat the country and the world were facing. In early February, Trump told Woodward that the disease “was deadly stuff” and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Trump knew that the virus spread easily and all segments of the population were at risk. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said on Feb. 7. On March 19, he told Woodward: “It’s not just old, older. Young people too, plenty of young people” were contracting COVID.
But in public, Trump did everything he could to undermine efforts to prepare society for the impact of this historic public health crisis. On Feb. 25, Trump said in a press conference: “We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better.” Three days later, Trump ludicrously stated: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Directly contradicting what he told Woodward about “even your strenuous flus,” Trump tweeted on March 9: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” As recently as last month, Trump was still publicly denying the basic science about the disease that he acknowledged privately back in March. Trump said on Aug. 5: “If you look at children, children are almost — I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease. So few — they’ve gotten stronger. Hard to believe. … And they don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”
The consequences of the Trump administration’s inaction have been enormous. The United States has experienced by far the highest number of COVID deaths of any country in the world. Millions have been infected and face the possibility of long-term health problems as a result. While the rich have the resources to isolate in comfort, workers — especially from Black, Latino and Native communities — have suffered the brunt of the pandemic.
Approximately 60 million workers have lost their jobs. Tens of millions of people are facing a looming foreclosure and eviction wave. An estimated 17 million additional people are going hungry because of the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Commenting on the release of Trump’s comments to Woodward, Elijah Blanton, an organizer with the Unity & Survival grocery delivery program, told Liberation News, “I’m shocked but not entirely surprised to see this from a person and an administration that have demonstrated nothing but disdain for the lives of working-class people.” Blanton’s group has delivered over 100,000 meals to working-class residents of Philadelphia who are struggling to survive and need to remain indoors due to the severity of the pandemic. He added: “There’s a household in the Kensington neighborhood where three families live, and there’s only one income earner risking his health to pay the bills. They do everything possible to take care of their block in spite of that, handling the deliveries of food that we connect them with a lot of the time. This community doesn’t expect much from the government, but the president has just displayed such blatant disregard for their lives. It makes me so angry.”
With this new revelation, the public has even further evidence that in the most critical early days of the pandemic the president acted with a single-minded focus on his own re-election efforts. Human life was completely dispensable in order to preserve Trump’s campaign narrative of a strong economy and a booming stock market.