Donald Trump has claimed he “up-played” the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic – despite admitting earlier this year he had “wanted to always play it down”.
The US president was answering questions at an ABC News event in Philadelphia when he was asked why he would “downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities”.
Mr Trump said: “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action. My action was very strong.”
According to recorded interviews, his comments contradict those he made with renowned US journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year, when he said: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Mr Trump has been criticised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has seen more than 6.6 million cases and 195,942 deaths. The figures account for about 20% of the cases worldwide, despite the US having just over 4% of the world’s population.
His Democratic challenger for the presidency in November, Joe Biden, last week accused Mr Trump of a “dereliction” of duty in dealing with the pandemic, which has also cost millions of people their jobs.
During the event, Mr Trump claimed a vaccine against the coronavirus “could be three weeks, four weeks” away despite scepticism among health experts about that type of timescale.
More from Covid-19
Thursday’s national newspaper front pages
Coronavirus: North East faces tighter lockdown restrictions from Friday
Boris Johnson survives committee interrogation and it’s clear which MPs he doesn’t respect
Coronavirus: Why has the UK run out of testing capacity? The three fateful decisions behind our stumbling system
Coronavirus: What it’s like trying to get a COVID test right now
Coronavirus tests: PM defends system and says children should stay at school until a positive test in their bubble
It comes as Scientific American announced it has endorsed Mr Biden for the White House – the first time the magazine has backed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history.
In an editorial, it said: “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the US and its people – because he rejects evidence and science.
“The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September.”