President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he always knew the coronavirus was a “serious” matter, adding he was aware the outbreak was a pandemic well before World Health Organization officials declared it so.
“This is a pandemic. I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic,” Trump, flanked by members of his coronavirus task force, told reporters at the White House this week. “All you had to do was look at other countries.”
The president was responding to a question about a noticeable shift in his rhetoric, and was asked if he agreed his tone when talking about the virus had become more reserved. Trump, 73, previously dismissed the outbreak as a “hoax” by Democrats, and is accused of downplaying the seriousness of the public health crisis at hand.
“I’ve always viewed it as very serious; it was no difference …” he said Tuesday. “I feel the tone was similar, but some people said it wasn’t.”
It wasn’t long before the POTUS was chewed out by critics who pointed to his past rhetoric making light of the deadly disease or questioning the legitimacy of the outbreak altogether.
“It‘s awful that we can’t believe a word our president @realDonaldTrump says about this pandemic,” one Twitter user wrote. “Of course, we can’t believe him about much of anything.”
Another called Trump’s remarks an “outrageous lie,” adding: “why isn’t this stuff called out?”
“How in the hell can this man say that he always viewed this virus as a pandemic?” someone else opined. “How can he say he took it seriously? Does he think we’re fools? It was just 2 days ago, he said no big deal it will go away!”
Others highlighted that just last week, Trump accused the left and “FAKE NEWS MEDIA” for “[inflaming] the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”
The president is singing a much different tune these days, as the highly contagious illness continues to sicken hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus, named COVID-19, has already claimed the lives of over 100 Americans with more than 6,000 confirmed cases nationwide.
The Trump administration has since ramped up its response to the crisis, with the president declaring a national health emergency Friday, March 13. At Tuesday’s news conference, Trump also discussed plans to roll out a stimulus package meant to remedy the economic fallout caused by the outbreak.
Watch more in the video below.