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Woodward Defends Withholding Trump Virus Remarks

Journalist argues full context was necessary
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2020 8:16 AM CDT

(Newser) – Bob Woodward has defended his decision to include President Trump's comments on the coronavirus in his upcoming book, rather than in an earlier news story, and he said it was a decision based on two factors. "The biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn't know if it was true," the journalist tells Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post. Trump told Woodward that the coronavirus is "deadly stuff," "more deadly than ever your strenuous flu" on Feb. 7—at that point, says Woodward, fear of the virus was minimal and Anthony Fauci was telling Americans to carry on as normal. The second issue is that he says he wasn't clear where Trump got his information from and whether it was reliable. It was only in May that Woodward was able to source it to a January intelligence briefing. He says it took months to put everything into context.

The election "was the demarcation line for me," Woodward tells the AP, adding it "would have been unthinkable" to publish afterwards. But various journalists argue the information should've come sooner. "Isn't there a journalistic imperative to publish this information in a timely manner... especially during a pandemic?" tweeted Adweek reporter Scott Nover. "This is really troubling … I think there's been a failure here." At Esquire, Charles P. Pierce noted "nearly 200,000 Americans have died because neither Donald Trump nor Bob Woodward wanted to risk anything substantial to keep the country informed." Sullivan herself notes "the chance—even if it's a slim chance—that those revelations could have saved lives is a powerful argument against waiting this long" to publish. Woodward tells her, "I did the best I could." (Michael Schmidt faced similar criticism over his book.)

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