President Donald Trump said late Tuesday at an ABC News town hall that he has "up-played" the CCP virus pandemic via the actions he took to combat its spread, and that he doesn't think he could have done more to stop it.
He was asked by one prospective voter, "If you believe it’s the president’s responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?"
Trump said, "I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action."
"Did you not admit to it yourself?" the voter said.
"Yes, because what I did was, with China, I put a ban on, with Europe, I put a ban on. And we would have lost thousands of more people, had I not put the ban on," Trump said.
The White House said that the president was projecting calm in February when speaking about the CCP virus, in part due to concerns about a mass panic that could have left grocery store shelves bare and crash the economy.
Near the end of the town hall on Tuesday, Trump was asked what was the most difficult part of his presidency and what he has learned from it. He told the voter that it was "without question ... the whole COVID, the China virus."
"It's been very difficult, it's been so sad ... I learned that life is very fragile. I knew people that were powerful people, strong people, good people, and they got knocked out by this, and died—six people. It was five until about 2 weeks ago, now it's six," Trump said.
"These were strong people, and all of a sudden they were dead; they were gone," he added. "And it wasn’t their fault. It was the fault of a country that could have stopped it.
"And I made a great deal with China … I feel so differently about that deal. It’s a great deal. It was good for the farmers, good for the manufacturers, but I don’t view it the same way. It was good for us, but I don’t view it the same way because of the horror of this disease, that could have been stopped at the border."
ABC News's George Stephanopoulos asked, "Could you have done more to stop it?"
"I don't think so," the president replied. "I think what I did by closing up the country, I think I saved two, maybe two-and-a-half, maybe more than that lives. I really don’t think so. I think we did a very good job.
"I don’t know if that's been recognized; we've made a lot of governors feel good, we've made some reputationally… we've enhanced their reputation. They didn’t have anything, we got them the supplies, we got them the ventilators. We’ve made a lot of people look good that shouldn’t look good, to be honest with you."
Trump was also asked on the wearing of masks. "The wearing of masks has proven to lessen the spread of COVID. Why don’t you support a mandate for national mask wearing? And why don’t you wear a mask more often?" one prospective voter asked.
"I do wear them when I have to and when I’m in hospitals and other locations," Trump said, later adding: "There is by the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good."
Trump provided an example of waiters who may touch the mask, "then they're touching the plate, that can't be good."
He went on: "If you look at Dr. Fauci’s original statement, you look at a lot of people, CDC, you look at a lot of people’s original statement, they said very strongly, George, don’t wear masks. Then all of a sudden they went to, 'Wear masks.'"
"The concept of a mask is good, but it also does... you’re constantly touching it, you’re touching your face, you’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good."
Kate Bedingfield, communications director for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign, said in a statement in response to Trump's comments on COVID-19 that "his mismanagement continues to badly worsen."
"After almost 200,000 Americans lost their lives because of his failed response to COVID-19, Trump again suggested tonight that the virus would just “go away.” The American people are crying out for real leadership on this pandemic, but Trump just confirmed tonight, yet again, that even after 8 months of letting the worst public health crisis in 100 years spiral out of control that not only does he not have a plan—he doesn’t have a clue," she added.