Trump says he ‘up-played’ COVID-19 ‘in terms of action’ at ABC town hall

President Trump on Tuesday defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, telling a woman in the audience at an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia that he did not “downplay” COVID-19 but instead “up-played” it.

“Why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low income families and minority communities?” the woman asked the commander in chief in response to his comment to author Bob Woodward.

“Well I didn’t downplay it, I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action. My action was very strong,” Trump told her.

She responded, “Did you not admit to it yourself?”

The president continued to defend his performance without recognizing her interruption.

“What I did was, 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. So that was called action, not with the mouth but in actual fact,” Trump said.

“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 told Woodward in March, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic.” A recording of the remark was recently published.

Trump defended himself at a recent White House press briefing, saying that he felt it was his responsibly to avoid stoking panic. His press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited a run on grocery stores at the beginning of the pandemic.

“There was no lie here,” Trump said last week. “What we’re doing is we’re leading, and we’re leading in a proper way… You don’t want me jumping up and down screaming, ‘There’s going to be great death!’ ”

ABC News town hall host George Stephanopoulos, a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Trump on Tuesday there were “holes” in the coronavirus travel bans.

“I mean the holes in where if you have somebody in China that’s an American citizen we had to let them in,” Trump said, referring to the court-established right for Americans to return to the US.

The clip was released ahead of the full town hall, which will be broadcast at 9 p.m.

Vice President Joe Biden declined an invitation to appear for an ABC News town hall, the network said. But Biden will participate in a CNN town hall on Thursday.

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