President Trump told author Bob Woodward earlier this year that the coronavirus was "more deadly than even your strenuous flu," but he wanted to "always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic." On Tuesday, he told undecided voters during an ABC News town hall that he "didn't downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action. My action was very strong."
The town hall, called "The President and the People," was held in Philadelphia and moderated by George Stephanopoulos. Trump fielded questions from audience members, including one who asked why he would "downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities."
Trump denied downplaying the virus and said one way he "up-played it" was by putting in place partial travel bans against China and parts of Europe in February and March. Stephanopoulos asked Trump to elaborate on his comments to Woodward, but Trump remained focused on the bans. "Whether you call it 'talent' or 'luck,' it was very important," he said. "So we saved a lot of lives when we did that."
Another voter asked Trump about his Make America Great Again campaign slogan, saying this "pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such 'greatness.' You've said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that it has been a race problem in America."
Trump responded, "Well, I hope there's not a race problem. I can tell you there's none with me because I have great respect for all races, for everybody. This country is great because of it." He added that he has been "bringing people together," and before the pandemic he ushered in "the best unemployment numbers they've ever had in the Black community, by far."