La. congressmen, political analyst respond to controversy over Trump downplaying seriousness of COVID-19

Woodward Trump Book Reaction
President Trump is recorded discussing the severity of the coronavirus during a February interview with Bob Woodward.
President Trump is recorded discussing the severity of the coronavirus during a February interview with Bob Woodward. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Some members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation reacted to President Donald Trump telling a legendary journalist that he intentionally downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus to the American public. But a local political analyst says Trump’s reasoning for understating the severity of COVID-19 may not sit well with voters.

On February 7, 2020, Trump can be heard on a recording saying to journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post regarding the coronavirus, “And so that’s a very tricky one, that’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than your, you know, even your strenuous flus.”

The recordings were for Woodward’s new book, Rage. In March, Trump said to Woodward on tape, “I wanted to always play it down, I still like playing it down,” said Trump.

Woodward said, “Yes, I.”

Trump continued," Because I don’t want to create a panic."

Louisiana’s senior U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, was asked Thursday about the controversy.

“The president tends to speak a little loosely, that’s just true, in which case I think it’s more important to look at his actions, his actions speak louder than words. It’s pretty clear the federal government is taking the coronavirus very seriously,” said Cassidy.

He said there is plenty of evidence that the federal government is working hard to combat the virus.

“The amount of resources put into addressing coronavirus have been unprecedented, the speed of vaccine development unprecedented,” said Cassidy.

But FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said Trump’s defense of not wanting to cause panic will not sell well with the public.

“There is no constituency the president’s comments will appeal to. Misleading on the coronavirus by comparing his public statements to his private comments and downplaying it, is not anything that could be in his political advantage, but this is not the first time Trump has said things that shock us,” said Sherman.

Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana’s junior senator, was asked about Trump’s recorded comments by CNN.

“You learn pretty quickly not to judge people up here by what they say. You have to judge them by what they do. And all I can tell you is what my personal experience has been and that is that this administration has been very responsive,” said Kennedy.

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden is not giving Trump a pass on the issue.

“Look, you saw what Columbia Medical School pointed out in March. Had he acted one week earlier, there’d be over 31,000 more people alive. Had he acted two weeks earlier, there would’ve been 50 some thousand people alive. This caused people to die,” said Biden.

Biden’s response came during an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. He said Trump downplayed the virus to help Wall Street.

“It was all about making sure the stock market didn’t come down, that his wealthy friends didn’t lose any money,” said Biden. “He waved a white flag. He walked away; he didn’t do a damn thing. Think about it, think about what he did not do, it’s almost criminal.”

Sherman was asked if Trump’s behavior could impact voters who were planning to vote for his reelection.

“The storyline so far of this election is the stability of the popular vote, it just hasn’t moved in months and whether Biden makes a gaffe or Trump makes an outrageous comment it doesn’t seem to move public opinion,” said Sherman.

In tweets and on television, Trump has slammed Woodward’s book as a “hit job” on him and questioned why Woodward did not disclose the comments earlier if he felt they were important.

Cassidy did not criticize Woodward over this week’s revelation.

“I don’t know the timeframe for writing a book, never written one, always admire those who do, so I’m not going to criticize Woodward, clearly the closer to the election the more damage it does to president’s electoral chances,” said Cassidy.

Sherman says the president’s criticism of Woodward is a distraction.

“Is anybody surprised that an author of a book is waiting for a peak time to debut his book which is right before the election for a political book? That’s not surprising to me but attacking the messenger is really a sideshow,” said Sherman.

And he noted the timing of the latest controversy involving Trump and recordings of his comments and another controversy involving tape-recorded statements. “It seems like deja vu all over again. Four years ago, at this time we were just about, talking about the Access Hollywood tape, now it’s the Bob Woodward tape,” said Sherman.

We requested comment from Congressmen Cedric Richmond and Steve Scalise of Louisiana for this story but so far, they have not responded.

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