In his first TV interview since the release of explosive revelations from his forthcoming book about President Donald Trump, journalist Bob Woodward said “overwhelming evidence” led him to reach his conclusion that Trump is the wrong man for the Oval Office.
The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter whose work played a major role in the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon sat down with “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley for an interview that aired Sunday night ahead of the official release of the book, titled “Rage.”
Pelley asked the Woodward about his final judgment:
PELLEY: It might disappoint some of your fans that you reach an editorial conclusion at the end of this book, something that reporters are not supposed to do.
WOODWARD: Yes. I say the president is the wrong man for the job.
PELLEY: But, you’re known as the reporter who doesn’t put his thumb on the scale. And yet, at the end of this book, you do just that.
WOODWARD: It’s a conclusion based on evidence, overwhelming evidence, that he could not rise to the occasion with the virus and tell the truth. And one of the things that President Trump told me, “In the presidency, there’s always dynamite behind the door.” The real dynamite is President Trump. He is the dynamite.
Copies of the book and recordings of some of the 18 interviews Woodward conducted with the president were obtained by several news organizations last week. The tapes made clear that for weeks, Trump that was not candid with the public about the danger posed by the coronavirus pandemic that as of Sunday has killed more than 194,000 people in the U.S.
In perhaps the most striking excerpt, Trump admitted on a Feb. 7 call with Woodward that coronavirus was deadly and airborne, while he continued to publicly claim it was no worse than the seasonal flu and would magically disappear.
Discussing that phone call, Woodward said Trump was told on Jan. 28 by Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger that the pandemic would be akin to the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed hundreds of thousands of people in America.
“It was a stunning moment in the Trump presidency and, I think, in American history. Because he then went on to publicly dismiss the virus. And he knew that this was a pandemic coming,” he said.
Trump has justified his actions by saying he did not want to “panic” the public, a point he made to Woodward in their conversations,
Woodward in the “60 Minutes” interview also discussed his conversations with Trump after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement around the country and sparked ongoing demonstrations demanding an end to systematic racism.
Woodward said Trump ridiculed him for reflecting on the basis of the movement. In a recording of that conversation, Trump said he didn’t feel at all that white privilege had isolated him from understanding the plight of Black people:
WOODWARD: And do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave, to a certain extent, as it put me – and I think lots of White, privileged people – in a cave and that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country? Do you see?
TRUMP: No. You, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you, wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.
Trump, who routinely gives himself top marks for his poor management of the coronavirus pandemic, told Woodward in an Aug. 14 call that “nothing more could have been done” to prevent the disastrous effects of the outbreak.
Woodward told Pelley that comment particularly shocked him.
“Does he remember what he told me, back in February, about, it’s more deadly than the flu?” he said. “I mean it almost took my breath away, that there was such certainty, when he was absolutely wrong about the issue that defines the position of this country right now.”
When he told the president that he made tough judgments about him in the book, Woodward said Trump tweeted an hour-and-a-half later that the “Bob Woodward book is gonna be fake.”