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Journalist and author Bob Woodward continued to defend himself over criticism he has been facing for appearing to withhold information about President Donald Trump.
Comments made by the president in multiple interviews spanning several months with the Watergate reporter for his upcoming book ignited a firestorm of condemnation for appearing to play down concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Woodward has, in turn, been called out for not releasing the recordings before his book tour.
(Source: NBC/ The TODAY Show)
NBC’s “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie confronted Woodward on Monday, pressing him about the decision to sit on the tapes and quotes until the release oh his book.
“The president told you way back on February 7th that this coronavirus was airborne, that it was five times more deadly than the flu,” Guthrie said.
“As you well know, you’ve been criticized for not releasing that information until now,” she added, noting “the president has criticized you, other commentators, one said on Twitter said ‘nearly 200,000 Americans died because neither Donald Trump nor Bob Woodward wanted to risk anything substantial to keep the country informed.'”
“Why didn’t you publish this information until now?” the “Today” co-host asked directly.
“Because in February, I thought it was all about China,” Woodward responded.
“Because the president had told me about a discussion with Chinese President Xi and, if you look at what was known in February, the virus was not on anyone’s mind, no one was suggesting changing behavior. Then when it exploded in March, as you know, there were 30,000 new cases a day,” he explained.
Woodward defended his move by contending that “publishing something at that point would not have been telling people anything they didn’t know. They knew very clearly that it was dangerous.”
Guthrie pushed back, claiming it should have been “abundantly clear” to the veteran journalist after Trump’s public statements tamping down panic and those he had spoken privately to Woodward admitting the dangerous nature of the virus should have prompted him to release the recordings.
“So you knew right then and there there was a contradiction between the public statement and what he had told you. Why not publish it right then and there and let the chips fall?” Guthrie pressed.
“If there was any suggestion I had that was about the United States, I would have, of course, published I think I have a public health, public safety responsibility,” Woodward replied. “But there was no indication in February, in March everyone knew what Trump had told me, that it applied to the United Sates.”
He went on to maintain that he did nothing wrong and pointed out that, at the time, he believed Trump was referring to the pandemic’s impact on China.
“The key here, Savannah, is that in May, three months later, I learned the key piece of evidence: that on January 28, 10 [days] before that February call, the president was warned by his national security adviser, in a top secret meeting, that the virus is going to be the gravest national security threat to your presidency,” he added.
“That’s why I begin the book with that January 28 meeting, because that’s what the president is telling me about on February 7, but I think he was talking to me about China,” Woodward said.
After the president had called the coronavirus “deadly stuff” in his February interview with Woodward, he spoke on-the-record again a month later.
“I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” the president said in the recorded interview, sparking outrage which he dismissed.
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? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2020
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