Confirming what many suspected all along, Watergate investigative reporter, best-selling author and Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward released audio files recently of President Donald Trump's real opinion on the severity of the global pandemic versus what he told the American public.
The POTUS admitted Chinese President Xi Jinping warned him in January that the virus was extremely deadly. But in calls to Woodward in February and March, Trump stated he deliberately downplayed the danger in his administration's response and in speeches to the public.
For Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, deliberately deceiving the public about the dangers of a global pandemic is entirely unfathomable and unacceptable.
"He knew how deadly is was, it was much more deadly than the flu. He knew and purposely played it down."
"Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willing lied about the threat it posed to the country for months."
"He had the information."
You can see Biden's remarks at an event in Warren, Michigan here:
While President Trump's penchant for making false statements and spreading alternative facts has been an oft highlighted part of his presidency, most of his lies are not deadly.
Publicly calling a global pandemic a hoax, however, is.
Naively believing it was no cause for concern, despite reports to the contrary from health experts, would be disconcerting. But knowing the seriousness and choosing to downplay it is worse according to those outraged by the President's comments to Woodward.
You can see some of Trump's public statements here.
This contrasts with the conversations the POTUS had with Woodward.
You can hear one of those conversations here.
Trump stated to Woodward on February 7:
"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."
If the President believed this in February, his disdain for masks for months was disingenuous and endangered his supporters.
Trump also said in that February call:
"It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu."
"This is deadly stuff."
Claiming the pandemic was no worse than the seasonal flu was a cornerstone of the public response however.
In another call on March 19, Trump told Woodward:
"I wanted to always play it down."
What impact the President's deliberate deception had on the public perception of the danger is still visible.
Conspiracy theories and claims the pandemic is a hoax are actively being pushed on social media and by right wing pundits on Fox News and more fringe media outlets like OANN. Those who refuse to follow public health precautions are also acting on recommendations from the White House.
An exact death toll caused by the deliberate deception may never be known, but over 6.35 million people in the USA have been infected. Over 190,000 people have died.
Over 20% of all deaths from the pandemic have been in the USA. The United States comprises just 4% of the Earth's population.