In an interview Tuesday night on CNN, journalist Bob Woodward said he wasn’t sure whether President Trump knows in his “own head what is real and what is unreal.” In the interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about Woodward’s book on Trump, Rage, Woodward goes on to say “that is why at the end of the book I say, in totality my judgment is this is the wrong man for the job.”
Cooper, noting that “what you just said is pretty terrifying,” asked if any of the other presidents Woodward has interviewed could have been described as having difficulty knowing what was “real” and what was not. “No,” Woodward said, reflecting on the essential role of the president to level with the American people—especially when the news is bad. Woodward pointed to President Roosevelt and what he said, “in those fireside chats two days after Pearl Harbor. What did Roosevelt say? ‘It’s all bad news. The very survival of this America is at stake.’”
Woodward became emotional reflecting on how blunt Roosevelt was, asking the American people to accept the bleak words from the White House, but still asking them “not to lose heart.” Trump, Woodward noted, chose to hide the bleak reality of the coronavirus’ threat to America—and Trump’s presidency.
In the CNN interview, Woodward describes a meeting in the Oval Office where the president was told Covid-19 would be the greatest national security threat to the president’s time in the White House. “Tragically, unfortunately, he failed to tell the public the truth that he knew,” said Woodward. “This is the moment a leader would say, I’ve got a warning, trouble is coming. But then he says I didn’t want to tell the truth because I didn’t want to panic people.”
During the Woodward interview, CNN played a portion of an ABC News town hall with Trump airing Tuesday evening in which a voter asked why the president would “downplay” the virus. The president said “I didn’t downplay it, I actually in many ways up-played it.”