Following the recent release of audio from interviews President Trump gave in the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the commander-in-chief says he was publicly downplaying the virus' threat "because I don't want to create a panic."
In early February, while the president was telling the public that COVID-19 was similar to seasonal influenza, he told journalist Bob Woodward that the virus was "deadly stuff."
The following month, Trump told Woodward that he "wanted to always play it down."
"I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," Trump said at the time.
Woodward interviewed Trump 18 times from December 2019 through late July 2020. He has written a book about Trump's presidency, which is titled "Rage" and will release on September 15.
In light of the release of the audio, Trump has defended his approach to the virus, saying he needed to help the American people not panic.
"I'm the leader of the country, I can't be jumping up and down and scaring people," Trump said in a Wednesday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. "I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic, and that's exactly what I did."
He also defended his decision to ban travel from China early in the U.S. battle with the virus, a decision that Democrats, including nominee Joe Biden, decried as "xenophobic."
"If you look at the representatives of Joe Biden, you see what they were saying. They were saying 'no problem', 'this won't be a problem,'" Trump told Hannity. "He didn't think it was going to be a problem until months later. He was way late."
The president told Hannity that Woodward's writings about past presidents have amounted to "hit jobs."