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National News

Trump Fires Back at Woodward, Saying He Should Have Spoken Up Sooner

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Trump Fires Back at Woodward, Saying He Should Have Spoken Up Sooner

2020-09-11 11:22:06

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

Donald Trump doesn't have much defense for the things Bob Woodward said about him in his new book, "Rage." He has audiotapes of his interviews with Trump saying those things. Instead, Trump is coming at him with the only thing he has: questioning why the journalist kept these things to himself all these months and waited to publish them in a book instead of alerting the public.

"Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn't he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?" wrote the president in a tweet. "Didn't he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!"

Woodward's book consists of many interviews he conducted with Trump over the past several months, many of them at the president's request. Trump admitted to him back in February that he knew the coronavirus was "deadly stuff."

This was at the same time that he was telling the public it was nothing worse than the flu and that it would go away. He also admitted at one point that he had "wanted to always play it down," as he didn't want to cause panic.

Many, including Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and criticizing Trump for his remarks to Woodward. Some are wondering, along with Trump, why the journalist didn't come forward sooner to help the public. More than 6.3 million Americans in total have been infected by the virus, and more than 190,000 have died.

There are some who think Woodward was thinking more about book sales than saving people's lives. "Nearly 200,000 Americans have died because neither Donald Trump nor Bob Woodward wanted to risk anything substantial to keep the country informed," tweeted Esquire's Charles P. Pierce.

Woodward has defended his decisions to include Trump's comments in a book and not go public with them. He told the The Associated Press he needed  time to ensure they were accurate.

"He tells me this, and I'm thinking, 'Wow, that's interesting, but is it true?' Trump says things that don't check out, right?" The journalist and two-time Pulitzer-winner said he knew his mission was to determine, "What did he know, and when did he know it?"

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that Trump did not deliberately mislead the public about the virus and only tried to install calm. She also said Trump didn't "downplay" the virus — contradicting what the president had said in a Woodward interview.

When talking to reporters on Wednesday, Trump even doubled down on admitting that he'd downplayed the virus, saying he did so to project "confidence."

"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, as you say. And certainly, I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy," he said. "We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation."

While he backs up his statements, Trump has also been criticizing Woodward. He referred to him on Wednesday in a tweet as a "rapidly fading" reporter who wrote a "boring book." He told Fox News's Sean Hannity in a phone interview that he "almost definitely" won't read Woodward's book but also defended his reasons for the 18 times he spoke with him.

Woodward explained Trump called him "out of the blue" in early February to "unburden himself" about the coronavirus. At that point there were very few cases in the U.S. It wasn't until May that he was satisfied that Trump's comments were based on reliable information. By that point much of the country was shut down because of the way COVID-19 was rapidly spreading.

"If I had done this story at that time about what he knew in February, that's not telling us anything we didn't know," explained Woodward. He went on to say at that point the issue was no longer one of public health but of politics. His priority was to get the story publicized before the election.

"That was the demarcation line for me," he said. "Had I decided that my book was coming out on Christmas, the end of the year, that would have been unthinkable."

He was asked why he didn't share Trump's remarks with another Post reporter to pursue and answered he'd developed "some pretty important sources" on his own. 

"Could I have brought others in? Could they have done things I couldn't do?" Woodward pondered. "I was on the trail, and I was [still] on the trail when [the virus] exploded."


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