The Charlotte Observer

BY JIM MORRILL

Two Democratic congressional candidates on Thursday blasted what one called the “failure of leadership” after revelations that President Trump initially sought to play down the danger of the coronavirus.

Trump told veteran journalist Bob Woodward in February that he knew the novel coronavirus was “deadly,” but chose to “play it down . . . because I don’t want to create a panic.”

“We should expect honesty from our leaders,” 9th District Democrat Cynthia Wallace told The Observer. “That’s not panic-inducing. That’s what Americans expect, especially when our health and safety is at risk.”

Woodward’s revelations came in a new book scheduled for publication next week. They include tapes based on his 18 interviews with the president between December and July.

Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of the 9th District did not respond to texts, phone calls or messages left with spokesmen. The district runs from southeast Charlotte to Robeson County.

GOP Rep. Richard Hudson of the 8th District, which stretches from the Mecklenburg County line through Cabarrus to Cumberland County, did not respond to requests through his press secretary.

Democrats have jumped on Trump’s comments to Woodward, first reported Wednesday by the Washington Post. They said the tapes showed Trump knew the virus was deadlier — and more easily spread — than he acknowledged publicly at the time.

Critics say earlier public warnings could have saved lives. More than 191,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.

“How many more people have to suffer because of President Trump’s lies?” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted Thursday.

Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson, running in the 8th District, said in a statement that she was “no longer surprised by disclosures regarding the president’s words and actions.”

“I am more disappointed in our members of Congress, like Richard Hudson, for failing to provide the checks and balances on the president and failing to get things done for our citizens,” she said. “With almost 200,000 Americans dead and small businesses and workers still struggling to recover, there is a clear failure of leadership in Washington.”

Like Bishop, Hudson has been a strong supporter of the president.

Wallace called the president’s comments “appalling.”

“It’s clear that the federal government has failed us so far,” she said.

N.C. GOP spokesman Tim Wigginton criticized the reports on Woodward’s book.

“Leaking out-of-context audio to sell books is unethical, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the mainstream media,” he said in a statement. He cited comments Thursday by infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci that he never got a sense that Trump “was distorting anything.”

Wigginton lashed out at Democrats who he said “spent the months leading up to the pandemic wasting time on an impeachment hoax, downplaying the coronavirus threat, and attacking President Trump’s life-saving travel bans from Europe and China.”