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Woodward: Trump's downplaying of virus a 'monumental, catastrophic leadership failure'

The Hill logo The Hill 9/16/2020 Justine Coleman
Bob Woodward wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Woodward: Trump's downplaying of virus a 'monumental, catastrophic leadership failure' © Getty Images Woodward: Trump's downplaying of virus a 'monumental, catastrophic leadership failure'

Journalist Bob Woodward on Wednesday said that President Trump's downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic was a "monumental, catastrophic leadership failure."

Woodward, in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said that the president saying he wanted to downplay the pandemic to avoid igniting a public panic prevented the U.S. from fully addressing the crisis.

"If he'd been honest and shared the truth in some form, we would be in a completely different position now," Woodward said. "It is a monumental, catastrophic leadership failure."

The journalist's comments come after Trump told Woodward in an interview for the journalist's book "Rage" that he wanted to downplay the virus.

Woodward labeled the Jan. 28 meeting in the Oval Office, in which the president was warned the coronavirus would be the biggest national security threat he would face, as "historic." The meeting serves as the opening in "Rage."

"I think it's one of the most historic moments in the Oval Office when a crisis is laid out, and the president doesn't level with the American people," Woodward told MSNBC. "And it's absolutely tragic. It's tragic for Donald Trump, for the country, for the 190,000 plus people who have died."

Woodward released recordings of his March 19 interview with the president when Trump said, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don't want to create a panic." The recording was released last week ahead of the book's release.

On Tuesday, Trump denied that he downplayed the severity of the pandemic, saying he "up-played it, in terms of action," during an ABC News town hall in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. has confirmed more than 6.6 million cases of COVID-19, leading to at least 195,961 fatalities, more than any other country in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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