One Year Ago Today, Trump Privately Admitted COVID-19 Was Deadlier Than the Flu. Then Promptly Lied.

Evan Vucci/AP

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We’re now in the phase of the pandemic when painful anniversaries start arriving. The first known case in the US. The first travel bans. Soon, we’ll mark a year since the first coronavirus death in the US. But I think about today, a year ago, often—a moment that strikes me as especially important to recall, for all the lies that have flooded our lives ever since.

We didn’t know about this until much later, in September, but on February 7, 2020, two days after Trump was acquitted in his first impeachment trial, the president spoke candidly to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Trump admitted, in a taped, private phone call, that the new coronavirus was “deadly stuff”, and something to be worried about. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” he said. “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

Publicly, of course, Trump was in full denial mode, squandering critical time as the virus raged, undetected, across the country. The federal response was in disarray—if one existed at all. But just three days later, at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump said, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

Over the next six months, Woodward taped more than four hours of interviews with the president. “I wanted to always play it down,” the he told Woodward in March, the same day he aggressively promoted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure. “I still like playing it down.” And as the death toll surged, that never changed. It was his deadly strategy from the start.

For the ultimate timeline of Trump’s coronavirus denial, delusions, and golf trips, head to our project, “Superspreader in Chief”.

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