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Collins, King Respond To Trump's Misleading Coronavirus Comments

Alex Brandon
AP Images
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington.

Both of Maine’s Senators are critical of President Trump’s public messaging around the COVID- 19 pandemic, in the wake of newly-released taped interviews in which Trump acknowledges heintentionally downplayed the seriousnessof the novel coronavirus.

The tapes of interviews with journalist Bob Woodward reveal that Trump knew of the serious dangers posed by the virus but downplayed them in his comments to the public.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said earlier this year that she thought Trump had gotten some things right, but in an interview Thursday Collins said the president should have been more transparent.

“His handling of the coronavirus crisis has been extremely uneven.”

On the Woodard tapes, Trump acknowledges that the virus is transmitted primarily through the air and is five times more lethal than the flu. But Trump also admits that he has intentionally understated the seriousness of the virus in his tweets, speeches and press conferences. Collins says the American people should be told the truth.

“I believe you have to be straight with the American people and tell them exactly how high the stakes are,” Collins says.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King agrees that the president has an obligation to warn the public of the dangers of the virus. He says Trump’s claim that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t hold up.

“That’s like saying I don’t want to scare people, so I am not going to tell them a hurricane is coming because they might panic,” King says. “To me it’s almost an exact analogy.”

King says Trump’s public messaging around the pandemic has cost lives.

“This was a biological hurricane that he knew was coming,” says King. “We now know he knew was coming, and he failed to warn people adequately and people have died as a result. I just don’t think there is any way to avoid that conclusion.”

King says he hopes Trump will now be open about the dangers of the pandemic and sound appropriate warnings to protect Americans from the spread of the virus.

Originally published 12:00 p.m. September 11, 2020

Updated 3:11 p.m. September 11, 2020

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.