U.S. President Donald Trump denied during a televised town hall Tuesday that he had played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating he did just that. Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, also cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration that strongly urge the use of face coverings.
Taped at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the town hall featured Trump taking questions from an audience of just 21 voters to comply with state and local coronavirus regulations. Face to face with everyday voters for the first time in months, Trump was pressed on his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why he doesn’t more aggressively promote the use of masks to reduce the spread of the disease.
Trump asserted in the town hall that “there are a lot of people [who] think that masks are not good.” When pressed by ABC News host George Stephanopoulos as to who he was referring to, Trump said “waiters.” Trump sought to counter his admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he was deliberately “playing it down” when discussing the threat of COVID-19 to Americans earlier this year. Despite audio of his comments being released, Trump said, “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action.”
Trump also suggested the virus would disappear without a vaccine, claiming the nation would develop a herd immunity with time, referring to it as “herd mentality.” “It’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen,” Trump said. “But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.”