On Wednesday, the White House attempted to spin revelations that President Donald Trump lied to the American public about the lethality and transmissibility of COVID-19 as an attempt to reduce panic.
Still, Trump continued to push for large, crowded campaign rallies and other events when, according to interviews with journalist Bob Woodward, he knew they would put Americans in harm’s way.
Trump knew as early as February that the coronavirus spread through the air and presented a unique and deadly threat, recordings of conversations he had with Woodward show.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump told Woodward in a private phone call on Feb. 7. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“This is deadly stuff,” he repeated.
Instead of protecting Americans from that threat, he actively exposed them to it. Within a month of his private disclosure to Woodward, Trump nevertheless held six indoor rallies, boasting each time about how many people he’d packed inside.
“We have more in this arena and outside of this arena than all of the other candidates,” he bragged at a Feb. 10 rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.
On Feb. 19, at an indoor rally in Phoenix, Arizona, he claimed every seat inside the 14,870 capacity Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum was full and that 21,000 people had gathered outside.
On Feb. 20, at an indoor rally in Colorado Springs, he bragged again about having “a packed house” at the 8,099-seat Broadmoor World Arena. He made similar remarks at a rally the next day in Las Vegas.
Trump didn’t acknowledge the outbreak at a rally until his fifth such event that month, in South Carolina on Feb. 28. And even then ― despite privately knowing it was “deadly stuff” ― it was only so he could dismiss criticism of his administration’s response to COVID-19 as the “new hoax.”
“They tried the impeachment hoax. … They tried anything. … And this is their new hoax,” Trump told the crowd. He again compared COVID-19’s lethality to the seasonal flu, which he knew to be false.
Trump held his sixth and final indoor rally on March 2 in North Carolina, where he crowed: “Our crowds now are bigger, stronger and even more enthusiastic than ever before.”
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