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In a recent Sixty Minutes interview with Scott Pelley, Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward said that on January 28, before COVD-19 was on anyone’s radar, Robert O’Brien, the National Security Advisor, told President Donald Trump that the virus would be the biggest national security threat during his presidency. Deputy National Security Advisor, Matt Pottinger, told Trump that contacts in China had informed him that the virus would be comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans.

On February 7, Trump told Woodward in a series of interviews that the virus was more deadly than the strenuous flu.

But with all the intelligence the President had received, in a press statement three weeks later, Trump told the public that the virus was, in fact, similar to the regular flu.

On March 19, Trump then said to Woodward, “I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down…because I don’t want to create a panic.”

On September 9, 2020, Biden in a Michigan campaign speech said that Trump knowingly and willing lied to the American people about the threat of COVID-19, and said that if he had just acted one week sooner, 36,000 people would have been saved, and that if he had acted two weeks sooner, 54,000 lives would have been spared.

In light of Trump stating how he wanted to downplay the severity of COVID-19, several independent news outlets have been reporting on the recent revelation. In addition to tying the significance of Trump’s words to his handling of the pandemic, as well as the 2020 Presidential election, these outlets have also condemned Woodward for delaying the release of the interview, but in entirely different ways.

The Young Turks, the progressive network that has been consistently criticizing Trump’s response to COVID-19, shamed the President for his Woodward interview.  On September 9, 2020, Ana Kasparian condemned Trump for downplaying COVID-19, asserting that the President had argued how COVID-19 is like the common flu.

“…we all know that that’s not true,” said Kasparian. “And no one can now argue that Trump was just ignorant of the facts. He knew what the truth was, he had been briefed about it in January. And he chose not to take it seriously when addressing the public.”

Kasparian and reporter Nando Vila also condemned Woodward for not releasing the recordings, but in a different manner from OAN. Conversely, while OAN seemed to be challenging Woodward’s bad intentions as a leftist media figure, the Young Turks accused him of being opportunistic.

“…it is pretty shameful that Woodward held on to this audio until he wanted to start promoting his upcoming book,” said Kasparian.

Kasparian and Vila also asserted that releasing the recordings could have sparked the media and elected officials to take the virus more seriously.

“…had we had that tape in early February,” said Vila, “…things might have been different…it’s hard to say…maybe more people would have taken it seriously. Maybe some governors would have taken it more seriously.”

On September 12, 2020, OAN, the far-right, pro-Trump news channel, asserted that the negative coverage of Trump downplaying the virus was an example of the media conflating Trump’s intentions while also being confused about the actions he took in response to the pandemic.

“The problem with this story is one of timeline,” said OAN Chief White House Correspondent Chanel Rion. “Media wrongfully conflated the idea President Trump didn’t want to create panic with the factually false premise that the President then, did not take action.”

Rion went on to challenge the merit of Woodward’s reporting by citing a tweet from Donald Trump that stated, “If he [Woodward] thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?”

Rion then dismissed the Woodward interview, and the media’s negative coverage of Trump’s words, as a failed attempt by the “frantic leftist media” to smear President Trump in an attempt to distract voters from Joe Biden’s shortcomings.

One week later, OAN reporter Daniel Kitchen commented on Joe Biden’s CNN Town Hall by highlighting a debunked claim made by Biden that Trump never referenced COVID-19 in his state of the union address. Kitchen also pointed out how Twitter users had a tweet frenzy when Biden and CNN reporter Anderson Cooper appeared to violate social distancing guidelines during a cut to commercial break.

While progressive channels like the Young Turks continue to condemn Trump’s handling of COVID-19, utilizing the Woodward tapes as further evidence, right wing outlets like OAN are making the claim that Trump was heroic in his attempt to not stir panic amongst the public.

At this time, several media outlets are continuing to report and criticize the President for downplaying the virus in a manner that was not honest with the American people, highlighting the February 7 Woodward interview as evidence that Trump knew what the stakes were. With the presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday, September 22, one can expect Biden to not just hold Trump’s Woodward interview against him, but also challenge him on his response to the pandemic. And if he doesn’t, progressive networks like the Young Turks most certainly will, and Trumpian networks like OAN, will certainly not.

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