White House defends hitting 200k coronavirus deaths: ‘We were expecting 2 million’

Despite contradictory coronavirus comments, president’s approval rating ticks up one point this week

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Tuesday 22 September 2020 21:28 EDT
Kayleigh McEnany says Donald Trump is the 'most informed person on the planet'

The White House defended Donald Trump as the number of confirmed coronavirus deaths passed 200,000, saying administration officials were expecting two million from “the Covid.”

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made the claim even though the largest number the president had used publicly was 200,000. Mr Trump has faced a backlash over comments he made in private to journalist Bob Woodward that described the disease in more stark terms than he used in public.

Asked about what he told Mr Woodward about young people being affected by it in February and what he said about young people at a campaign rally on Monday night, Ms McEnany said “we know a lot more about” Covid-19 now. She noted the president said that the previous night.

“The president has never downplayed critical medical information,” she contended, even though he was recorded by Mr Woodward appearing to do just that.

The 2 million figure seemed picked out of thin air.

"The fact that we have come nowhere near [2 willion dead] is a testament to this president taking immediate action," she said.

Mr Trump claims he was less honest about the severity of the virus in public in an effort to avoid mass chaos.

“If you said in order to reduce panic, maybe that’s so,” Mr Trump said on 9 September when asked about the comments he made to Mr Woodward for his new book. “It’s just another political hit job.”

Mr Trump told reporters that day he told Woodward one thing and the American people another because being honest in public would mean “you’re going to have bigger problems.”

“I don’t want people to be frightened,” he said. “We want to show confidence, we want to show strength.”

Despite his voice on a recording admitting he was not fully forthcoming in public, the president’s approval rating has remained unchanged.

In fact, a The Hill-HarrisX poll out Tuesday put his approval rating at 48 per cent, a one-point jump from the last version of the survey.

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