Revelation that Trump downplayed epidemic could see him continue 'blame China' rhetoric: experts
Evidence of failure impacts election, but Trump may continue blaming China: observers
Published: Sep 10, 2020 03:59 PM

Donald Trump. Photo: VCG

He knew it, and he deliberately downplayed the threat posed by the COVID-19. Bob Woodward, the American journalist who broke the Watergate story, has dropped quite a bomb in his new book by revealing interview quotes from US President Donald Trump, indicating that the US leader had known that the virus was deadlier than flu before the first death.

According to excerpts from Woodward's new book Rage, Trump told the journalist as early as in February that the virus was "deadly stuff." And despite knowing of its highly contagious and deadly nature, Trump had publicly said the opposite, insisting the virus would go away, according to US media outlets including The New York Times. 

Woodward conducted 18 interviews with the president for the book, which goes on sale next week, with the relevant quotes directly from the podium.

The rest of the story is known to all. As of Thursday, the world's biggest economy has registered 6,359,720 confirmed infection cases and more than 190,000 deaths from the pandemic, the worst record in the world.

Furious Americans took to social media. Following the reported peek into the new book, the hashtags #Trumpknew and even #Trumpvirus are trending on Twitter on Thursday.

"Trump was warned about the threat of #coronavirus starting in JANUARY. Trump knew. Trump did NOTHING. And now, nearly 200,000 Americans are dead. VOTE HIM OUT," Dena Grayson, a renowned American physician, wrote on her verified Twitter account on Thursday. 

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told author Woodward on March 19, days after he declared a national emergency. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," Trump said in the book, Reuters reported.

"It goes through the air," Trump said in a recording of a February 7 interview with Woodward. "That's always tougher than 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.

"And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."

Even if Trump was clear on the severity and high contagiousness of the virus, he ignored consistent questioning of his lagged response to the virus domestically, while kept accusing China of covering up the outbreak.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in as early as February said that since January 3, China notified the US of the epidemic and China's control measures 30 times.

Trump on Wednesday defended his handling of the virus. "The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened," Trump said at the White House. "We've done well from any standard."

Such revelations, documented in recording tapes, would surely harm Trump's reelection bid, as it has exposed and demonstrated how his administration failed to respond to the pandemic in the first place, and the virus control policy has been in free-fall ever since then, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Right now, Trump is determined to play the blame game against China and the World Health Organization to cover up his failures on the pandemic, and another strategy of his is to further divide American society from white to black, from the privileged to the have-nots, from the Republicans to the Democrats, Li said.

As a result, negative public opinion will emerge, but society has gone way beyond the point of rationality, meaning Trump's supporters would vote for him no matter what, he noted.

Ironically, media reported Wednesday that a Norwegian far-right MP has nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel peace prize for a second time, citing his role in the normalizing of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The nomination sent Trump on a tweet spree, retweeting related news feeds and thanking supporters. 

"You should not be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize if you refuse to fight a deadly disease that sickens and kills your own people. #Rage," Christine Pelosi, an American Democratic Party political strategist from California, wrote Thursday.

"If he treated masks the way he treats guns, every one of his supporters would wear one and thousands of lives would be saved from coronavirus. Instead, over 190,000 Americans are dead and over 6 million infected. #TrumpKnew and destroyed our lives and livelihoods," she posted.

Hashtags related to Trump admitting to downplaying severity of COVID-19 topped China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo hot topics as of press time, gathering more than 2.5 million views and thousands of comments.

One of the most liked comments read "The contradiction here is quite clear. Trump had full knowledge of the danger of the virus, while doing little about it, and never stopped blaming China. Really?"

"What about Americans' human rights, Mr. President?" wrote another.