President Donald Trump talked over an uncommitted voter and tried to deny the premise of her question to him about his downplaying the risk of the Covid-19 outbreak, during an early preview of the ABC News town hall.
The question from Ajani Powell, an African-American student from Pennsylvania, was clearly evoking the bombshell reports from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming inside-the-White-House account, Rage. In it, Trump admitted during on-the-record — and taped — interviews with Woodward that he had, in fact, repeatedly attempted to minimize the threat from the coronavirus even as he was learning of its deadly nature from national security and public health officials. “I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down,” Trump said in a private conversation to Woodward in February.
“If you believe it’s the president’s responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities,” Powell asked, standing in a small amphitheater with a few, socially distanced other voters around her.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I, actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” Trump said, directly contradicting his own taped comments to Woodward.
“You did not admit to it yourself, saying that you…” Powell broke in, attempting a follow-up that alluded to Trump’s own words.
But Trump refused to stop and instead talked over her as he continued to give his now standard answer about enacting a travel ban from China and then, weeks later, one on visitors from Europe.
“That was called action, not with the mouth, but in actual fact,” Trump said, plowing forward and then praising his administration’s response. “We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important. So we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”
Town hall moderator George Stephanopoulos then stepped in to discuss the China travel ban, which had exceptions that allowed tens of thousands of Americans abroad in that country to come home. And the nation had little in the way of virus detection to assess their health as they re-entered the country. But the ABC News host never called out Trump’s own contradictory statements to Woodward.
“There were holes in the ban and the European ban didn’t come for another month,” Stephanopoulos pointed out.
“Well, they were Americans,” Trump explained of the exceptions.
Watch the video above, via ABC News.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]