Fact Check By: Rem Rieder on Factcheck.org, Newswise
Trump, March 24: I brought some numbers here. We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off, I mean every year. Now when I heard the number — you know, we average 37,000 people a year. Can you believe that? AndClaim Publisher and Date: President Donald Trump on Fox News on 2020-03-24
A new book by journalist Bob Woodward shows that President Donald Trump sought to downplay the seriousness of the novel coronavirus despite the fact that he knew just how dangerous it was.
One way he did that was to liken the coronavirus to the flu, even though he told Woodward in early February that the coronavirus was far more lethal. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump misleadingly contrasted the total deaths of an entire flu season with very preliminary numbers for the coronavirus.
In a Jan. 28 intelligence briefing, Woodward writes in “Rage,” National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump that the virus would be the “biggest national security threat” he would face.
In taped interviews, Trump underscored to Woodward just how deadly the disease could be. In a Feb. 7 conversation, Trump told Woodward, “This is deadly stuff,” adding that it might be five times more lethal than the flu. Trump said, “It’s also more deadly than your – you know, your, even your strenuous flus.”
Yet, as we have written, from Jan. 22 through March, Trump constantly minimized the danger of the disease. He often did so by comparing it to the flu, as he did at a Fox News virtual town hall on March 24.
Trump, March 24: I brought some numbers here. We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off, I mean every year. Now when I heard the number — you know, we average 37,000 people a year. Can you believe that? And actually this year we’re having a bad flu season. But we lose thousands of people a year to the flu. We never turn the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies, say, “Stop making cars. We don’t want any cars anymore.” We have to get back to work.
On March 19, Trump told Woodward he was understating the threat on purpose. “I wanted to always play it down,” he said, adding, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
There have been 6,354,869 coronavirus cases in the United States and 190,589 deaths as of Sept. 9, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.