(CNN)President Donald Trump dismissed questions from Pennsylvania voters about his handling of coronavirus, insisting he did act strongly to fight the pandemic and again denied he downplayed the situation despite saying so on tape.
“Well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” he claimed, responding to a question from an undecided voter at ABC’s town hall that aired Tuesday night.
Last week, recordings of journalist Bob Woodward’s conversations with Trump surfaced ahead of the release of Woodward’s new book, “Rage.”
In the interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he knew more about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known.
As Trump made public appearances ensuring Americans that one day coronavirus would “just disappear,” Trump was privately telling Woodward that the virus was deadlier than the flu. And in mid-March, he told Woodward, “I wanted to always play it down.”
“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he told Woodward at the time.
Following the release of recordings with Woodward, Trump said he was a cheerleader for the country and didn’t want to create a panic responding to the comments he made to Woodward.
“The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say,” Trump said earlier this month.
On Tuesday, confronted with why he didn’t do more to fight the virus, the President insisted he did.
“My action was very strong because what I did with China. I put a ban on. With Europe, I put a ban on. And we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on,” Trump said. “So that was called action, not with the mouth but in actual fact. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on, whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”
Trump on Tuesday also contradicted his administration’s top health advisers’ call for Americans to wear facial masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, saying that “there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good.”
The President was asked why he hasn’t supported a national mask mandate and why he doesn’t wear one more often.
Trump said he does wear masks “when I have to.” He also blamed Democrats and Joe Biden for not instituting a national mask mandate even though Trump is the President and not Biden.
“They said at the Democrat(ic) National Convention they’re going to do a national mandate. They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And … Like Joe Biden. They said, ‘We’re going to a national mandate on masks.’ … But he didn’t do it. He never did it,” Trump said.
The President also claimed that “there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good.”
Asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for a specific example, Trump said waiters.
“They come over, they serve you and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day, where they were serving me and they’re playing with the mask. I’m not blaming them … they’re playing with the mask … they’re touching it and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good,” Trump said.