Trump admits downplaying virus: Murphy says he would’ve acted sooner
Gov. Phil Murphy said that fewer New Jersey residents could have died if President Trump had been more forthright with the American people about the coronavirus.
In an interview on CNN, Murphy said he would have shut down the state a month earlier had the federal government acknowledged that they understood the virus to be airborne.
In a new book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward says Trump admitted that he understood the seriousness of the virus in early February but wanted "to play it down" because "I don't want to create a panic."
Trump sat for 18 interviews with Woodward, which were recorded. In an interview on Feb. 7, while he was publicly dismissing the threat of the coronavirus, Trump told Woodward, "This is deadly stuff."
"You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed," Trump said. "It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
More than 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 — more than 20% of the world's death's despite the nation having less than 5% of the world's population.
In New Jersey, one of earliest and hardest-hit states, more than 14,000 people have died since March, although the unconfirmed toll could be as high as 16,000 so far.
New Jersey began imposing restrictions on commerce and public gatherings in March through executive orders issued by Murphy, who said Wednesday that he would implemented the shutdown in February had Trump been honest then.
"To hear this and to think about the time that was wasted and the lives that have been lost, sadly, as a result of it is extremely disheartening," Murphy said on CNN.
Murphy has spent almost the entirety of the pandemic being complementary to Trump and his administration despite being at odds politically. On Wednesday, Murphy defended his praise of Trump, saying his administration came through with help acquiring ventilators, personal protective equipment and extra hospital beds.
Still, Murphy said he would have taken earlier action to save more lives if he had known the information that Trump had access to.
"People rely on trust even when you're delivering news that's not popular, not something that folks want to hear. Folks can take it and, you know, we've been, from moment one, trying to channel brutal honesty with the severity of this pandemic with a path forward through that pandemic," he said.
Trump on Wednesday continued to defend his handling of the pandemic, saying "I don't want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic challenger for November, said Wednesday that Trump "lied to the American people."
"While a deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job — on purpose. It was a life or death betrayal of the American people," Biden said during a campaign stop in Michigan. “He knew how dangerous it was.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.