WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, responding to an onslaught of questions Wednesday about Bob Woodward’s new book on President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the commander-in-chief tried to keep the public calm to prevent mass panic.
“The president never downplayed the virus. The president expressed calm,” McEnany told reporters during a briefing less than an hour after the first excerpts emerged of Woodward’s new tome “Rage”, which includes 18 interviews with Trump.
McEnany revealed for the first time that US food supplies were at risk at the peak of the virus as millions of concerned Americans rushed supermarkets to stock up.
“Our food supply chains were at risk. We could not have mass runs on grocery stores. The markets also, the economy was in play here,” she said.
“We didn’t want it to be a huge crash and panic and he expressed calm from this podium and he has always taken it seriously,” she continued.
“The president just days after having this discussion with Bob Woodward, said this from this podium, on March 30, he said, ‘I do want them to stay calm, we are doing a great job, if you look at the individual statements they are all true, stay calm, it will go away but it’s important to stay calm,’” the press secretary said. “So this president does what leaders do — good leaders — it’s stay calm and resolute at a time when you face an insurmountable challenge.”
Earlier Wednesday, it emerged that Trump told the Washington Post editor in February that he knew the coronavirus was “deadly” but concealed details from the public.
“I always wanted to play it down,” the president said in one recorded conversation with Woodward in March.
“I wanted to play it down, I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
McEnany defended the president in that instance as seeking to keep the public calm and touted his actions, including his shutdown of travel from China, the nation’s low case fatality rate and the dozens of therapeutics that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“When you’re facing insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence, it’s important to express calm,” she continued.
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