'Perhaps': Trump Contradicts WH Press Sec on Downplaying Coronavirus, Says He Wanted to 'Reduce Panic'

President Donald Trump contradicted his own White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday by acknowledging that he downplayed the coronavirus threat earlier this year to "reduce panic" among citizens.

In a March 19 interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Trump was taped saying "I wanted to always play [coronavirus] down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

Despite his remarks, revealed earlier today through excerpts and tapes from Woodward's 18 interviews with Trump, the White House press secretary told reporters that the president "never downplayed the virus" and "never lied to the American public on Covid."

Hours after McEnany's remarks, Trump acknowledged that he downplayed the pandemic threat earlier this year in his own public address. When asked by reporters if he "misled the public," the president replied, "I think if you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so."

"The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic," he added.

"I was very open, whether it's to Woodward or anybody else—it's just another political hit job—but whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you cannot show a sense of panic or you're going to have bigger than you ever had before."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for further comment on the remarks.

Woodward's upcoming book, Rage, and recorded conversations released this morning, showed that Trump was aware of the deadly virus threat before he declared the pandemic a national emergency. The Washington Post and CNN obtained copies of the reporter's book, ahead of its scheduled release on September 15.

"This is deadly stuff," the president told Woodward on February 7, before assuring his supporters at a New Hampshire rally three days later that "it's going to all work out fine."

On January 28, national security adviser Robert O'Brien had briefed Trump about the coronavirus, saying it's expected to be the "biggest national security threat of his presidency," according to Woodward's book. The president spoke at a campaign rally in Iowa two days later, where he told his supporters that China "have somewhat of a problem" but "everything's going to be great."

McEnany explained today that the president was doing "what good leaders do" by keeping American citizens from panicking.

"He doesn't want to see chaos," she said. "No one is lying to the American people."

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U.S. President Donald Trump announces his list of potential Supreme Court nominees in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on September 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Doug Mills-Pool/Getty
'Perhaps': Trump Contradicts WH Press Sec on Downplaying Coronavirus, Says He Wanted to 'Reduce Panic' | U.S.