“Why did you lie to the American people, and why should we trust what you have to say now?” Karl asked.
According to the book and an audio interview, Trump told Woodward on Feb, 7 that the virus was deadly and dangerous, and could be spread through the air. But during the next month the president minimized its threat in public statements. In another interview with Woodward on March 19, Trump said that he downplayed the threat of the virus so as to not cause panic.
“That’s a terrible question,” Trump responded to Karl. “And the phraseology. I didn’t lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can’t be panicked.”
Trump told Karl that the way he phrased the question was a “disgrace.” “It’s a disgrace to ABC television network. It’s a disgrace to your employer.”
.@jonkarl: "Why did you lie to the American people? Why should we trust what you have to say now?"
President Trump: Such a terrible question and the phraseology. I didn't lie."
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 10, 2020
Trump also addressed why he talked to Woodward in the first place. The investigative reporter had already authored a critical book about the Trump presidency, Fear, but the president did not participate. But for Rage, set to be published on Tuesday, the president did 18 interviews with him.
He said that Woodward was “somebody that I respect just for hearing the name for many, many years, not knowing too much about his work, not caring about his work. But I thought it would be interesting to talk to him for a period of calls.”
“Certainly if he thought that was a bad statement he would have reported it because he thinks that you don’t want to have anyone suffer medically because of some fact,” Trump said. “And he didn’t report it because he didn’t think it was bad.”
Woodward has come under some criticism for withholding his interviews with Trump for his book, as it could have raised alarms over a public health crisis. But Woodward defended that decision, telling The Washington Post and the Associated Press on Wednesday that he was unsure if the information that Trump told him in February was correct. He said that it was not until months later that he could verify the information was reliable.
At the press conference, Trump continued to try to shift the focus to Woodward, telling The Washington Post‘s Phil Rucker that “if Bob Woodward thought that what I said was bad, he should have immediately, right after I said it, gone out to the authorities so they can prepare and let them know.”
“Bob Woodward is not the president,” Rucker responded.
“The only ones that think it was bad were the fake news media, because they take it and try to put it a certain way,” Trump said.
Trump also said that he watched a great deal of TV over the past 24 hours, including the Fox Business and Fox News lineup. “I watched Liz McDonald, she’s fantastic. I watched Fox Business, I watched Lou Dobbs last night, Sean Hannity last night, Tucker last night, Laura. I watched to ‘Fox and Friends’ in the morning,” he said.