COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Trump has been facing criticism over downplaying the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic months ago. The president is quoted in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward saying he understood the virus was deadly but did not want to create public panic.
During his coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was asked if he believed Trump misled the public about the gravity of COVID-19. "All I can do is talk about our communication with the White House and what they were doing. The president made some decisions early on, stopping travel for example. Those were decisions he made," DeWine said. "All I know is what I saw on tv last night in the brief time I was watching, the president said he did not want to alarm people. So I'm going to take the president at face value."
The governor also complimented Woodward, calling him "a respected journalist."
As far as his current relationship with the White House is concerned, DeWine had nothing but positive things to say.
"What we do every week with the White House, usually the VP (Mike Pence) is on the call, sometimes the president is on the call. And if you could listen to those, they are very business-like, no nonsense, straightforward. That has been my relationship with this administration," DeWine said.
Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was also asked about the Woodward book. “I just can’t, can’t comment on it,” he said on Wednesday. “Could we all have done things differently? Yes, including Congress. We were all a little slow to recognize the severity,” Portman added.
In a burst of tweets Thursday morning, Trump defended his comments admitting that he had been warned about the danger of the virus.
“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months,” Trump wrote. “If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!"
The book is based in part on 18 interviews that Woodward conducted with Trump between December and July.
“Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states,” Woodward writes of the pandemic. "There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.”
Woodward has defended his decision to hold off by saying he needed time to make sure Trump’s private comments were true.