US president Donald Trump said he deliberately played down Covid-19 in disastrous interview

Business Insider US
Tucker Carlson, left, and Sean Hannity, right, seen on their shows Wednesday night. Center: The cover of Bob Woodward's upcoming book, "Rage."
  • On Wednesday, outlets starting reporting on Bob Woodward's new book on President Trump, "Rage." 
  • Trump told Woodward during one of the many interviews they had for the book, that he downplayed the coronavirus crisis. 
  • Wednesday night, Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity defended Trump against the damaging report. 
  • Carlson blamed Sen. Lindsay Graham for setting up the interviews with Woodward, while Hannity said that Trump's leadership during the coronavirus is comparable to FDR.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Fox News hosts and contributors jumped to President Donald Trump's defence in the wake of recordings of him telling reporter Bob Woodward he intentionally played down the seriousness of the coronavirus in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Outlets that got an advanced preview of Woodward's book "Rage," due out on September 15, began reporting on the stunning revelation on Wednesday. The recordings of Trump's admissions have also been released

Later that night, Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity attempted to downplay Woodward's book, with Carlson blaming Sen. Lindsey Graham for setting up the Woodward interviews, and Hannity comparing Trump's leadership to other American presidents in time of crisis. 

Carlson said on his show that he had spoken to a source who said Graham, a Republican, had convinced Trump to talk to Woodward, and had even sat in on their first meeting.

Carlson then went on to suggest that Graham did this deliberately to sabotage the president. 

"Now remember, Lindsey Graham is supposed to be a Republican, so why would he do something like that?" he said. "You'd have to ask him."

"But keep in mind that Lindsey Graham has opposed — passionately opposed — virtually every major policy initiative that Donald Trump articulated when he first ran, from ending illegal immigration to pulling back from pointless wars to maintaining law and order at home."

"Lindsey Graham was against all of that, more than many Democrats, so maybe you already know the answer," Carlson said.

Hannity also said that the president's decision to downplay the virus was comparable to how President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the country during the Great Depression and World War II.

"Did President Roosevelt fan the flames of misery? Did he call for panic and anxiety? No, he actually rallied a nation in a time of need, he focused on making Americans stronger by staying positive, and he got to work and he rolled up his sleeves," Hannity said.

"During World War II, with the country on the brink, FDR proclaimed: 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself,'" he said. "Did the media attack him? Of course not."

Hannity's defense echoed that of Trump in his interviews. In one recorded this March, the president is heard saying: "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."

Hannity also used the analogy of how President George W. Bush responded to the September 11, 2001 attacks. 

"What was President Bush supposed to say? 'America's going down in flames, you better go hide in your basement bunker.' Of course not. A president's job is to maintain order and, by the way, right the ship during and after a crisis. Not spread panic, not spreading fear among the population.

"Let's make one thing perfectly clear: President Trump has never misled or distorted the truth about this deadly truth. No, he acted faster than anyone else," Hannity said. 

Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at conservative magazine The Federalist, had a similar defense of Trump.

During an appearance on Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier," Hemingway refuted the idea that Trump didn't do enough to stop the virus in its early days, and said she didn't think the Woodward book was "such a big deal." 

"We already knew that President Trump thought this was serious, he closed the border, he created a task force, he declared a public health emergency. And we already knew in March he was asked: 'Why are you so optimistic about it?' or 'Why are you downplaying it?' He says: 'I don't want to cause panic.'

"I think that, in fact, if there were criticism to be had against President Trump, it's that he didn't do enough to stop those people who try to panic everything and to shut down," she said.

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