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Trump says he "up-played" the coronavirus

President Trump responded to a question from an ABC town hall attendee Tuesday evening that he did not downplay the coronavirus, instead saying "in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action."

Reality check: The president told journalist Bob Woodward during an on-the-record interview that he intentionally understated the severity of COVID-19 in public statements to avoid inciting panic.


What they're saying: An audience member at the ABC event asked the president: "If you believe it's the president's responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that's known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?"

"So that was called action," Trump said in response. "Not with the mouth, but an actual fact ... Because what I did, with China, I put a ban on, with Europe, I put a ban on. We would have lost thousands more people had I not put a ban on. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important. So, we saved a lot of lives when we did that. 

  • Asked by host and ABC News Chief George Stephanopoulos if the number of Americans who have died from the virus causes him pause and whether his administration could have done something differently, Trump replied, "I think we could have had 2 million deaths if we didn’t close out the country."
  • The president repeated his claim that the virus will disappear. "It's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines," he said. "It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it."

The big picture: Trump added that he restricted travel from China to slow the spread of the virus and claimed the policy was singularly his idea.

  • Woodward recently told NBC News that limiting travel from China was not Trump's idea, but was recommended at a January meeting by leading health experts in the administration, including Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

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Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

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Reproduced from Indeed; Chart: Axios Visuals

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