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Woodward Mounts His 'Deadly Stuff' Defense

The legendary reporter is asked why he didn't inform the public sooner
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2020 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – A revelation in Bob Woodward's new book is coming back to haunt him—but he insists he had his reasons, the Washington Post reports. In Rage, Woodward writes that President Trump called COVID-19 "deadly stuff" back in February but chose not to tell the public because he didn't "want to create a panic." Now Woodward's critics are asking whether he also withheld vital information that could have hit newsprint months ago and possibly saved American lives. "This is really troubling," tweeted Adweek reporter Scott Nover. "As journalists we're supposed to work in the public interest. I think there's been a failure here." Woodward says he held back for a couple of reasons.

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One is that he didn't know where Trump got his information. It wasn't until May that Woodward found out Trump had learned about COVID-19 in a January intelligence briefing. But "the biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn't know if it was true," Woodward says, adding that he also wanted to place the revelation in a bigger context to "tell the second draft of history." But is this timeworn practice of saving information for a book defensible with COVID-19? Not to his critics: "If there was any chance it could save a single life, he was obligated to do so," tweets former BuzzFeed bureau chief John Stanton, per NBC News. "Bob Woodward put making money over his moral and professional duty." (Read more Bob Woodward stories.)

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