Trump says in Philly town hall: 'I didn't downplay' coronavirus, 'I up-played it'

By Jonathan Tamari, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Political News

On Jan. 31, Trump imposed restrictions on people arriving in the U.S. after visiting China, a move that some experts have praised as a helpful early intervention, but that others argue was less decisive than the president portrays. The restrictions had significant exceptions, and Trump's critics say he squandered the benefits by being slow to take other actions to contain the virus, such as ramping up testing and imposing a detailed nationwide plan to limit public activity and encourage social distancing.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward in a March 19 interview for the journalist's new book, Rage. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

Even Tuesday night, Trump questioned the value of wearing face masks, which he often refuses to wear, even though public health experts say it's one of the most important ways to slow the virus' spread. He frequently mocks his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.

"We're very proud of the job we've done," Trump said Tuesday, boasting about providing ventilators and other equipment to states that needed them, and repeatedly blaming China for the virus.

The country has more than 20% of the world's coronavirus deaths, with only 4% of the world population, Stephanopoulos noted.

A Philadelphia pastor, Carl Day, confronted Trump about his "Make America Great Again" slogan, asking when the country has been great for African Americans. "Are you aware how tone deaf that comes off to African American communities?" Day asked.


Trump responded by pointing to Black unemployment statistics before the pandemic.

"You could just go back six or seven months from now, that was the best single moment in the history of the African American people in this country, I think," Trump said.

The overwhelming majority of Black voters support Biden, polls show, and many believe Trump has encouraged racism - or is racist himself, a charge the president denied Tuesday.

Asked about police shootings, Trump briefly acknowledged the actions of "bad apples" and "chokers," saying some police make mistakes under pressure. But he also said police are unfairly maligned and "we have to give police back that strength that they had a short while ago."


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