Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash Joe Lieberman endorses Susan Collins: ‘I’m a lifelong Democrat but I put my country first’ McConnell tries to unify GOP MORE (R-Maine) said President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: I feel ‘deep down fury’ that Trump downplayed pandemic NYT reporter removed from Trump rally in Michigan Trump says he didn’t share classified information following Woodward book MORE should have been “straightforward” with the American people regarding the seriousness of the threat posed by the coronavirus earlier this year after recordings revealed he downplayed the pandemic.
“I believe the president should have been straightforward with the American people. The American people can take hard facts, and he had an obligation as president to be straightforward with them and to tell all that he has known,” Collins said at a Senate debate in Maine Friday evening.
The remarks come after recordings of interviews between Trump and veteran journalist Bob Woodward revealed that Trump wanted to “downplay” the coronavirus’s threat in the early months of the pandemic.
“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,” Trump said in a recording released by Woodward.
“It goes through the air,” Trump said in another part of the interview. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breath the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
The comments to Woodward came at the same time as Trump was publicly comparing the coronavirus to the annual flu and suggesting the pandemic would simply disappear.
Trump later acknowledged that he knew more about the threat from the coronavirus than he let on in February and March, suggesting he was trying to prevent a “panic.”
“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country,” Trump said this week. “I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”
The president has caught significant flak over his response to the coronavirus, with Democrats and a handful of Republicans saying he did not take early enough action to blunt the pandemic’s spread.
“I have said since the beginning that the president’s performance has been uneven and that he should follow the advice of his excellent medical advisers,” Collins said Friday.