President Trump admitted Wednesday that he may have misled the public about the threat COVID-19—but he said he had good reasons. His remarks followed the release of recordings from earlier this year in which he told Bob Woodward he had downplayed the virus threat. Asked Wednesday afternoon if he had misled the public, the president said, "Well, I think if you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so," per the Washington Post. "The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic." In a Feb.7 phone call, Trump told Woodward that the coronavirus is "deadly stuff" that "goes through the air." Publicly, he said the virus was no worse than the flu and predicted that it would soon disappear.
"We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation," Trump said Wednesday, describing Woodward's upcoming book Rage as "just another political hit job." He said he was "very open" to the Washington Post associate editor, "but whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you cannot show a sense of panic or you're going to have bigger than you ever had before." Trump also defended his administration's handling of the pandemic Wednesday and wondered why officials hadn't received more praise for doing an "incredible job," the Hill reports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)