OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen Patty Murray on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump after reports that he acknowledged the threat of the new coronavirus and then deliberately downplayed it as the pandemic took root.
The remarks by the pair of officials come after reports this week that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that he realized the severity of the virus weeks before state officials announced the nation’s first reported death in Washington.
The president Thursday morning acknowledged making those remarks to Woodward — but downplayed their relevance.
In an interview, Murray, a Democrat from Washington, said the lack of urgency by the president and his administration cost lives.
“I have been saying since day one, way back in the end of January … of the urgency of this crisis and what we need to do,” Murray said in an interview. “It was downplayed by this administration, there was no urgency … and people have died.”
Murray added later that she hopes now “they take this urgently, they do not downplay it.”
“They use this time now to stop the spread from continuing to go and going into this winter,” she said. “And having more people die.”
In a Feb. 7 interview for Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Rage,” the president called the virus “deadly stuff.”
Those remarks came about two weeks after the nation’s first diagnosis of the virus was reported in a Snohomish County man.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in audio recordings of that interview posted online by The Washington Post. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
Three weeks after Trump’s Feb. 7 remarks, officials publicly reported the nation’s first known COVID-19 death, a resident of Kirkland’s Life Care Center.
Later, on March 19, Trump told Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the danger.
“I wanted to always play it down,” the president said, according to a recording of that interview published by The Washington Post. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
In a statement Thursday, Inslee slammed the president, saying the nation still doesn’t have a coordinated push from the federal government to curb the virus.
“President Trump refuses to take appropriate action even now,” the governor, who Thursday met with officials in Whitman County about outbreaks there, said in prepared remarks. “We still lack a coherent national strategy to defeat COVID-19. We still lack a full mobilization of the federal government to ensure adequate testing, PPE and other supplies.”
“His deceit was not just wrong, it was deadly,” added Inslee. “This has been a wholesale failure on the part of the White House.”
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said that by playing down the threat, the president “failed America once again.”
“As Trump played it down, cases went up, deaths went up, unemployment went up, evictions went up, the number of uninsured went up, the number of families at food banks went up and the number of businesses closing permanently went up,” Jayapal said in a statement. “His inaction led to devastation.”
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump acknowledged the remarks to Woodward, but suggested that if they were indeed problematic, the journalist would have made them public before now.
“If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?” wrote the president. “Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”
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