President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday. Photo: AP
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Trump denies downplaying virus, casts doubt on mask usage

18 Comments
By ZEKE MILLER and KEVIN FREKING

Fielding compelling questions about voters’ real-world problems, President Donald Trump denied during a televised town hall that he had played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating he did just that.

Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration strongly urging the use of face coverings and seemed to bat away the suggestion that the nation has racial inequities.

“Well, I hope there’s not a race problem,” Trump said Tuesday when asked about his campaign rhetoric seeming to ignore the historical injustices carried out against Black Americans.

Face-to-face with everyday voters for the first time in months, Trump was defensive but resisted agitation as he was pressed on his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why he doesn't more aggressively promote the use of masks to reduce the spread of the disease.

“There are people that don’t think masks are good,” Trump said, though his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges their use.

The event, hosted by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, was a warmup of sorts before Trump faces Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the first presidential debate on Sept 29. Taped at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, it featured Trump taking questions from an audience of just 21 voters to comply with state and local coronavirus regulations.

Trump sought to counter his admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he was deliberately “playing it down” when discussing the threat of COVID-19 to Americans earlier this year. Despite audio of his comments being released, Trump said: “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action."

“My action was very strong,” Trump added. “I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic.”

Trump also insisted he was not wrong when he praised China's response to the virus in January and February, saying he trusted Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader. “He told me that it was under control, that everything was and it turned out to be not true,” Trump said,

Trump also suggested the virus would disappear without a vaccine, claiming the nation would develop a herd immunity with time, but he didn't mention the lives that would be lost along the way.

“It’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen,” Trump said. "But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly."

The questions from uncommitted voters were pointed and poignant: a diabetic man who said he felt he’d been thrown “under the bus” by mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic; a Black woman with a disease that left her uninsurable until the Obama health care law came along who is worried that she could lose coverage again; a Black pastor who questioned Trump’s campaign motto to “Make America Great Again.”

“When has America been great for African Americans in the ghetto of America?” the pastor asked.

Asked about what he was doing to address protests against racial injustice, Trump lamented a “lack of respect” and the absence of “retribution” for those who clash with or carry out attacks against police officers. Trump on Sunday called for the death penalty for the individual who shot and critically injured two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies over the weekend.

Trump has been unusually mum on his debate preparations ahead of the first debate, set to take place in Cleveland. On Tuesday, he told Fox News that he believes his day job is the best practice for his three scheduled showdowns with Biden.

“Well, I sort of prepare every day by just doing what I’m doing,” Trump said. He noted that he had been in California on Monday and had been to other states before that to make the point that he’s getting out and about more than Biden.

One person likely to study the replay: Biden. Returning from a long day of campaigning in Florida, Biden said at his plane that he was preparing for the debates mostly by going back through what Trump has said in the past. But he suggested he had yet to initiate mock debates, saying he was unaware who would play the role of Trump in his preparations.

Trump, in the Fox interview, lowered expectations for his Democratic opponent's performance, judging Biden “a disaster” and “grossly incompetent” in the primary debates. He assessed Biden as “OK” and “fine” in his final one-on-one debate with Bernie Sanders before clinching the nomination.

Trump's rhetoric on Biden marked a departure from the traditional efforts by candidates to talk up their rivals' preparation for televised debates, in hopes of setting an unattainably high bar for their performance.

The second of the three scheduled debates, set to be held in Miami on Oct. 15, will feature a similar “town meeting” style.

Biden is to have his own opportunity to hone his skills taking questions from voters on Thursday, when he participates in a televised town hall hosted by CNN.

The visit to Pennsylvania is Trump’s second to the battleground state in the last week, after he attended a Sept. 11 memorial event in Shanksville on Friday.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


18 Comments

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If only every politician was like him. American citizens don't know how lucky they are. He knows what's really behind this scamdemic. I really hope he stays in power.

Absolutely. It feels like he's one of the few world leaders who's putting himself where it hurts in order to benefit the many. The media crucify him every day, and even from this piece you can see how biased some of the writing is. Nobody writes about Biden like this, even though he's a far easier target. When the media empires crumble and free speech is once again abound, everyone, even the haters, will look back and realize that Trump was one of the good guys all along.

Peace.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, cast doubt on the use of face coverings

If only every politician was like him. American citizens don't know how lucky they are. He knows what's really behind this scamdemic. I really hope he stays in power.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

Trump supporters, care to explain that...

Still waiting....

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Trump added. “I’m not looking to be dishonest.

Yeah, he's not. His dishonesty just comes out all naturally for him.

I got a chuckle out of that one!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Oh, come on Donald, make yourself smart! But I guess it's way too late for that.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I’m not looking to be dishonest.

Well, I guess there is a first for everything.  But if you don't want to look dishonest you must, as my science teacher said in my report book, try harder.  Because currently you are failing big time.  If you stopped lying then perhaps you could make some baby steps (ramp walk) forward.  Big ask of you though.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

It's not just the doubting of the utility of masks, this administration's entire response to this has been nothing short of a complete disaster.

Got my mail-in ballot a few days ago and know exactly how I'm voting.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

How much of a moron must one be to follow this dangerous fool?

Every word from his whining mouth is a lie....

6 ( +12 / -6 )

In the pics. That is one big dude holding that door open.

He just looks big because he's photographed next to such a small man.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

Trump to Woodward in Feb and Mar: * This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance. So this rips you apart, Trump added. It is the plague. More deadly than your, you know, your — even your strenuous flus. This is more deadly, he said. This is five per — you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know. So, this is deadly stuff*. It goes through the air, That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.**

Trump then holds indoor rallies with no distancing or masks on Feb 10, 19, 20, 21, 28 and Mar 2. After a break, he then holds another 15 rallies between Jun 20th and Sep 13th...no distancing, no masks...

And;

Trump to Woodward on Mar 19: Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old- older. Young people too, plenty of young people.

Trump in a speech on May 13: But I think you should absolutely open the schoolsIt’s had very little impact on young people.  It’s the governors’ choice. But their state is not open if the schools aren’t open. So, again, it’s had very little impact on young people, and I think they should open their schools.

Trump supporters, care to explain that...

10 ( +16 / -6 )

In Trump's topsy-turvy bubble he now claims to be "up-playing" the pandemic! This is as true as another of his recent flights of fantasy that he was given a "Bay of Pigs Award" by "someone", a notion that only exists in his imagination. Why on earth hasn't there been a bipartisan initiative to invoke the 25th in order to restore America's standing in the eyes of the world?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Let's face it, if Obama weren't Black, Trump wouldn't be trying so hard to dismantle the ACA which provides health care to millions of people with pre-existing conditions.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Trump added. “I’m not looking to be dishonest.

Yeah, he's not. His dishonesty just comes out all naturally for him.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

If it wasn't so serious, I am really looking forward to this election in November. It is going to be all Biden's to lose.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Trump added. “I’m not looking to be dishonest.

Add that to the previous 20,000 'fabrications'.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

He talks too much.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

bat away the suggestion that the nation has racial inequities.

I've heard white nationalists say that for years.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

In the pics. That is one big dude holding that door open.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

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