President Donald Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus during a town hall meeting that aired Tuesday night – including from a former supporter who asked him why he threw ‘people like me under the bus.’
‘Yeah, well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways I up-played it in terms of action,’ Trump said early in the town hall program broadcast on ABC.
Trump was responding to a direct question from a voter at the event in Philadelphia.
President Donald Trump faced tough questions from voters at an ABC town hall in Philadelphia that aired Tuesday night
“If you believe it’s the president’s responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities,’ the voter, a woman from Pittsburgh asked.
Trump’s response came days after Bob Woodward’s book ‘Rage’ revealed Trump telling the author in a March 19 that he played down the virus to avoid ‘panic.’
‘I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,’ the president told Woodward, in an interview captured on tape.
Trump faced some tough questions from the get-go, including from a man named Paul Tubiana who said he voted for him in 2016.
Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?’ asked Paul Tubiana, who said he voted for Trump in 2016
Moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his statements that the coronavirus will ‘go away’
Trump flew back and forth from Washington and enjoyed a Philly cheese steak on the way home aboard Air Force One
Trump faced voters days after revelations from Bob Woodward’s book, where Trump said he downplayed the virus to avoid ‘panic’
‘I’m a conservative, pro-life and diabetic. I’ve had to dodge people who don’t care about social distancing and wearing face masks,’ he said – after Trump held rallies with mask-less supporters in the West.
‘I thought you were doing a good job with the pandemic response until about May 1st. Then you took your foot off the gas pedal. Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?’ he asked.
‘Well, we really didn’t, Paul,’ Trump responded.
‘We’ve worked very hard on the pandemic. We’ve worked very hard. It came off from China. They should have never let it happen,’ he said.
Interviewer George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on past statements that the virus would ‘go away.’
‘It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it,’ Trump told him.
‘It would go away without the vaccine?’ Stephanopoulos asked him.
‘Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away,’ Trump responded.
‘And many deaths,’ Stephanopoulos told him, as the nation approached 200,000 of them due to the coronavirus.
‘And you’ll develop – you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality,’ Trump said. ‘It’s going to be – it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen,’ he said.
In other comments, Trump quoted comments from disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci early in the pandemic amid a shortage of protective gear – then noted that ‘some people’ say not to shut down businesses to spread disease transmission.
‘But whether it’s Dr. Fauci or anybody else, a lot of people got it wrong. They talked about don’t wear masks, and now they say wear masks. Although some people say don’t wear masks,’ Trump said.
‘I mean you have a lot of different ideas. Some people say just leave it the way it is and don’t do any shutdowns, and other people say do shutdowns,’ he said.
Another questioner told him: ‘The wearing of masks has proven to lessen the spread of COVID. Why don’t you support a mandate for national mask wearing?’
‘And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden — they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks,’ Trump said, referencing a comment Biden made weeks ago about what he might do once in office after consulting experts.
‘He’s called on all governors to have them. There’s a state responsibility,’ said Stephanopoulos.
‘ Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it,’ Trump said.
Trump flew back and forth from Washington for the event and enjoyed a Philly cheese steak on the way home aboard Air Force One. Trump posted an image of the meal, reminiscent of his famous taco bowl image from his 2016 campaign.
The meal came from Philadelphia shop D’Allesandro’s, a source told DailyMail.com Tuesday.
‘I don’t want to drive our nation into a panic. I’m a cheerleader for this nation. I’m the one that closed up our country. I closed it up long before any of the experts thought I should — and saved hundreds of thousands of lives,’ Trump claimed.