How Trump, media reacted to ‘Rage’


According to Bob Woodward in his recently published book, “Rage,” President Donald J. Trump made it very clear on tape that he was well aware of the seriousness of coronavirus as early as February 2020.

In a Feb. 7 taped interview Woodward wrote that Trump described the virus as deadly, especially since it can be transmitted through the air. Then in May 2020 Woodward wrote that he found out that in January 2020 Trump had been given detailed information about the extreme danger posed by the virus by several healthcare professionals.

Despite having this critical information, Trump has loudly and consistently downplayed and dismissed the virus’s threat. That is not surprising considering the president’s notorious history when it involves being truthful.

Sat on information

What is surprising, at least to some people, is Woodward not providing this critical information to the public. After all, this is not about some political or economic policy program; it was information that has negatively affected people’s health and lives.

What is also not surprising, at least to some of us, is the reaction of prominent members of the American press to Woodward’s decision to sit on the information.

During the week before his book was available to the public and the week afterwards, I watched Woodward being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN, Stephen Colbert on CBS, Andrew Cuomo on CNN, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony DoKoupil on CBS.

Robinson’s response

None of them asked Woodward why he sat on that important information. Neither did the New York Times columnists Michelle Goldberg, Nicholas Kristof and Maureen Dowd, whose columns I read in the Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 issue of the paper.

O’Donnell, on the Tuesday before his Wednesday interview with Woodward, did ask one of his guests, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, about his reaction to Woodward’s decision to sit on the information.

Robinson’s basic response was “Let Woodward be Woodward,” whatever that means.

One columnist who did respond was Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post.

In a column titled “What Woodward Owed the Public,” she noted “…Thanks to taped recordings of interviews Woodward conducted with the president in preparation for his latest book ‘Rage,’ the world has learned that President Trump was well aware of the virus’s lethality and its method of transmission as early as February.

It is also clear that the legendary reporter sat on that story until the week before his book was published.”

Another response

Another time I saw the issue raised was in a Sept. 13 review of “Rage” by Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks.

She wrote “…Trump, we learned, told Woodward that the coronavirus was far ‘more deadly’ than ‘even your strenuous flus’ as early as Feb. 7, 2020, even as he acknowledged his intent to minimize the threat to the American public.

And Woodward, on his part, decided to keep this disturbing news for himself, saving it for the book apparently took priority over letting the public know that their president was actively misleading them about a virus that has now killed nearly 200 thousand Americans.”

I now know what Eugene Robinson meant when he said, “Let Woodward be Woodward.”

A. Peter Bailey’s latest book is “Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, the Master Teacher.” Contact him at



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