Trump Dismissed Coronavirus Pandemic Worry in January — Now Claims He Long Warned About It

Trump’s revisionist claim on Tuesday came as he discussed aggressive measures to stem the progress of the pandemic

FILE - Former President Donald Trump
Alex Brandon/AP (File)

What to Know

  • President Trump now claims he believed the coronavirus outbreak was “a pandemic, long before it was called a pandemic.”
  • But in January he had explicitly played down such concerns when asked about that specific word, “pandemic,” saying: “We have it totally under control.”
  • Trump’s revisionist claim came as he discussed aggressive measures to stem the progress of a pandemic that has rocked financial markets and led to widespread restrictions on travel, schools, restaurants and retailers.

President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday he has believed the coronavirus outbreak was “a pandemic, long before it was called a pandemic” — but in January, he explicitly played down concerns when asked about it.

“No, not at all,” Trump told CNBC in a Jan. 22 interview on CNBC when “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernen asked him if there were worries about an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China becoming a “pandemic.”

“It’s going to be just fine,” Trump assured Kernen during the interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“We have it totally under control.”

Trump’s revisionist claim to the contrary on Tuesday came as he discussed aggressive measures to stem the progress of a pandemic that has rocked financial markets and led to widespread restrictions in the United States on travel, schools, restaurants, theaters, shopping centers and other gathering places.

Trump was speaking at a White House press conference when a reporter asked about what many have noted was a change in tone on how he has spoken about the outbreak.

In recent days Trump has announced new, strict guidelines designed to slow the rate of virus transmission, called for cash payments to Americans to alleviate their financial distress from the pandemic, and said he was contemplating other actions.

At the same time, U.S. deaths from coronavirus have increased to at least 85, with more than 4,660 reported cases. Worldwide, there are more than 183,000 cases of coronavirus, and at least 7,167 deaths.

Some news reports have tied Trump’s new stance on coronavirus response to a projection that more than 2.2 million people in the United States alone would die from COVID-19 if the government and individuals did not take radical steps to restrict interactions between people.

That projection was made by an epidemic modeling group at Imperial College London, whose lead author, Neil Ferguson, has said he sent the analysis to the White House last week, according to The New York Times.

“Was there a shift in tone?” the reporter asked the president.

Trump said, “I didn’t feel different.”

“I’ve always known this is a, this is a real, this is a pandemic,” the president said.

“I’ve felt that it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”

“All you had to do was look at other countries, I think now it’s in almost a 120 countries, all over the world.

“No, I’ve always viewed it as serious,” he said. “There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar but some people said it wasn’t.”

But during his Jan. 22 interview on CNBC, Trump claimed the virus was “totally under control.”

Kernen opened that interview by noting that “a case of coronavirus” had been identified in Washington state by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Have you been briefed by the CDC?” Kernen asked.

“I have,” Trump replied.

Kernen then asked: “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?”

Trump said: “No. Not at all.”

“And, we’re, we have it totally under control,” Trump said.

“It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

On Feb. 28, Trump said that Democrats are using the coronavirus outbreak as a “hoax” to damage him and his administration.

“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” the president said at a campaign rally in South Carolina.

“One of my people came up to me and said: ‘Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well.’ They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation,” he continued.

“This is their new hoax,” Trump said.

He also said that same day, “We have to take it very, very seriously. ... We are preparing for the worst.”

″“My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to prevent the spread of this illness in the United States. We are ready. We are ready. Totally ready.”

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