Seth Meyers continued to reel from Trump’s interviews with journalist Bob Woodward, in which he stated plainly that he understood in February that the coronavirus was more dangerous than the seasonal flu despite publicly claiming the virus would “disappear” or “miraculously go away” in April.
“The question with Trump is always ‘is he deluded, or is he lying?’” said the Late Night host on Thursday evening. “Obviously the answer is often both, but in this particular case, it turns out Trump wasn’t just in denial.” In an audio interview for Woodward’s book, Rage, on 7 February Trump said the coronavirus was “more deadly than your, you know, even your strenuous flus”.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the tape, said Meyers, was “hearing Trump talk even semi-coherently about something”.
“Seriously, that’s the same guy who publicly suggested injecting bleach and told everyone heat would make the virus go away,” Meyers said. “Imagine if Trump had said what you just heard on that tape at the start of the outbreak. Even if he screwed up everything else, it still would’ve helped encourage more of his supporters to take the virus seriously.”
Instead, as Meyers demonstrated with a series press conference clips, Trump spent months downplaying the coronavirus as merely another seasonal flu that could be treated by the standard vaccine.
“If you’re still wondering if this was an intentional strategy to hide the true danger of the situation from the American people, it was, because Trump confessed to that, too,” said Meyers, who returned to the Woodward tapes: “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said on a call with Woodward on 19 March. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
“You didn’t want to create a panic? Well congrats, dude, you nailed it,” Meyers deadpanned. “For the last six months, I did my show from literally a panic room.”
Even after four years of the Trump rollercoaster inuring him to shock, Meyers added, the Woodward tapes got to him, although it was mostly shock that Trump was “dumb enough to confess something so cartoonishly evil to a reporter who was recording him. It was like if the Unabomber put a return address on all his packages.”
On the Daily Show, Trevor Noah also addressed the fallout from the Woodward interviews, after Trump doubled down on his comments in a press conference this week and defended misleading the nation as being a “cheerleader for this country”.
When normal people get caught on tape admitting that they lied to an entire country, they usually apologize. But President Trump didn’t become president by being normal.
How Trump and Fox News are spinning the Bob Woodward tapes: pic.twitter.com/bZHlFbIDRg
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) September 11, 2020
“Motherfucker, you’re not a cheerleader, you’re the coach!” Noah retorted. “When you see that your team is headed for a huge defeat, you come up with some plays. You don’t just stand on the sidelines waving pom-poms and saying everything is gonna be OK.
“Look, Trump, just because you’ve spent a ton of time in cheerleaders’ changing rooms doesn’t mean that you are one,” Noah added.
Still, Noah continued, one upside to being stuck in a four-year “psychotic relationship” with Trump is that “we’ve pretty much learned every pattern that every Trump scandal takes: Trump steps into shit, and then Trumpworld comes out and explains that he didn’t actually step in shit, or it wasn’t shit, or that if the coastal elites got out of their bubble, they’d realize that stepping in shit is the most American thing that you can do.”
The Woodward tapes are no different, he said, as Fox News rallied to justify Trump’s lies about the pandemic as smart examples of leadership. Trump was “calm and confident” because “he didn’t want to create a panic”, said The Five’s Jesse Watters. Steve Doocey of Fox & Friends compared Trump’s lying to FDR’s Fireside Chats, and Tucker Carlson somehow attempted to blame the South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham for setting up Trump’s 18 interviews with Bob Woodward in the first place.
“This is the problem with defending Trump at all costs: eventually, you’re forced to invent the most ridiculous conspiracy theories,” Noah said. Graham is one of Trump’s staunchest allies, but Carlson was “making him sound like a resister who’s hiding Black Lives Matter signs in his office”.
Fox News spin machine and media outrage aside, it’s too soon to tell if the tapes will make a dent in the presidential election, Noah concluded. After all, “scandals slide off him faster than his bronzer on a hot day”.