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Donald Trump claims he ‘played UP’ the coronavirus after bombshell admission he ‘played it down’

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President Donald Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus during a town hall meeting that aired Tuesday night – including from a former supporter who asked him why he threw ‘people like me under the bus.’

‘Yeah, well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways I up-played it in terms of action,’ Trump said early in the town hall program broadcast on ABC. 

Trump was responding to a direct question from a voter at the event in Philadelphia.  

President Donald Trump faced tough questions from voters at an ABC town hall in Philadelphia that aired Tuesday night

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“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,’ the voter, a woman from Pittsburgh asked. 

Trump’s response came days after Bob Woodward’s book ‘Rage’ revealed Trump telling the author in a March 19 that he played down the virus to avoid ‘panic.’

‘I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic,’ the president told Woodward, in an interview captured on tape.  

Trump faced some tough questions from the get-go, including from a man named Paul Tubiana who said he voted for him in 2016. 

Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?' asked Paul Tubiana, who said he voted for Trump in 2016

Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?’ asked Paul Tubiana, who said he voted for Trump in 2016

Moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his statements that the coronavirus will 'go away'

Moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on his statements that the coronavirus will ‘go away’

Trump flew back and forth from Washington and enjoyed a Philly cheese steak on the way home aboard Air Force One

Trump flew back and forth from Washington and enjoyed a Philly cheese steak on the way home aboard Air Force One

Trump faced voters days after revelations from Bob Woodward's book, where Trump said he downplayed the virus to avoid 'panic'

Trump faced voters days after revelations from Bob Woodward’s book, where Trump said he downplayed the virus to avoid ‘panic’ 

Host George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on his administration's legal efforts to throw out Obamacare and his claim last year that he would produce a health care plan

Host George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on his administration’s legal efforts to throw out Obamacare and his claim last year that he would produce a health care plan

Trump faced tough questions on his handling of the pandemic in a key battleground state he won in 2016

Trump faced tough questions on his handling of the pandemic in a key battleground state he won in 2016

The venue at the National Constitution Center kept the president far away from questioners

The venue at the National Constitution Center kept the president far away from questioners 

Seven weeks before Election Day, ABC News hosted a town hall with President Donald Trump and uncommitted voters

Seven weeks before Election Day, ABC News hosted a town hall with President Donald Trump and uncommitted voters

Participant Laura Galvas asks about police brutality

Participant Laura Galvas asks about police brutality

‘I’m a conservative, pro-life and diabetic. I’ve had to dodge people who don’t care about social distancing and wearing face masks,’ he said – after Trump held rallies with mask-less supporters in the West.

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Key quotes from Trump’s Philadelphia town hall 

On coronavirus: ‘Yeah, well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways I up-played it in terms of action.’ 

From a Pittsburgh voter: ”Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?’ 

On coronavirus ‘going away’: ‘It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.’

Asked what people think masks are not good: ‘I’ll tell you who those people are – waiters.’ 

President Trump and George Stephanopoulos

President Trump and George Stephanopoulos

Blaming Joe Biden for lack of a national mask mandate: ”Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it.’ 

On his long-delayed health care plan: ‘I have it all ready – I have it all ready.’

What he learned from the pandemic: ‘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 two weeks ago, now it’s six.’

On any regrets for handling the virus: ‘No, I think we did a great job.’

To grief-stricken questioner Flor Cruceta: ‘Just take your time, that’s fine. George has plenty of time, I hope, right?’

After Cruceta mentioned her cancer-stricken mom was from the Dominican Republic: ‘Did you say your mom got COVID?’ 

On cancelled trip to cemetery for fallen troops in France: ‘I said let me just go separately in a car in disguise, I don’t care. I wanted to be there so badly.’

Pastor Carl Day on Trump’s MAGA slogan: ‘Are you aware of how tone deaf that comes off the African American community?’

On report he called fallen U.S. troops ‘suckers’ and losers: ‘But the statements never happened, they were lies.’ 

On Winston Churchill. Churchill ‘ said, you’re going to be safe. Be calm, don’t panic. And you had bombers dropping bombs all over London. So I guess you could say that’s not so honest, but it’s still a great leader.’  

On dignified transfers of remains of U.S. soldiers: ”You know, I go to Dover and I greet, oftentimes, soldiers coming in, and they’re dead’ 

‘I thought you were doing a good job with the pandemic response until about May 1st. Then you took your foot off the gas pedal. Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?’ he asked. 

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‘Well, we really didn’t, Paul,’ Trump responded.

‘We’ve worked very hard on the pandemic. We’ve worked very hard. It came off from China. They should have never let it happen,’ he said. 

Interviewer George Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on past statements that the virus would ‘go away.’

‘It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it,’ Trump told him.

‘It would go away without the vaccine?’ Stephanopoulos asked him.

‘Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away,’ Trump responded.

‘And many deaths,’ Stephanopoulos told him, as the nation approached 200,000 of them due to the coronavirus. 

‘And you’ll develop – you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality,’ Trump said. ‘It’s going to be – it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen,’ he said. 

In other comments, Trump quoted comments from disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci early in the pandemic amid a shortage of protective gear – then noted that ‘some people’ say not to shut down businesses to spread disease transmission.

‘But whether it’s Dr. Fauci or anybody else, a lot of people got it wrong. They talked about don’t wear masks, and now they say wear masks. Although some people say don’t wear masks,’ Trump said.

‘I mean you have a lot of different ideas. Some people say just leave it the way it is and don’t do any shutdowns, and other people say do shutdowns,’ he said. 

Another questioner told him: ‘The wearing of masks has proven to lessen the spread of COVID. Why don’t you support a mandate for national mask wearing?’  

‘And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden — they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks,’ Trump said, referencing a comment Biden made weeks ago about what he might do once in office after consulting experts.

‘He’s called on all governors to have them. There’s a state responsibility,’ said Stephanopoulos. 

‘Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it,’ Trump said.

Trump flew back and forth from Washington for the event and enjoyed a Philly cheese steak on the way home aboard Air Force One. Trump posted an image of the meal, reminiscent of his famous taco bowl image from his 2016 campaign. 

The meal came from Philadelphia shop D’Allesandro’s, a source told DailyMail.com Tuesday. 

‘I don’t want to drive our nation into a panic. I’m a cheerleader for this nation. I’m the one that closed up our country. I closed it up long before any of the experts thought I should — and saved hundreds of thousands of lives,’ Trump claimed. 

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Trump also fielded a question from a woman who has sarcoidosis and said each year she pays $7,000 plus copays. 

‘From the day I was born, I was considerable uninsurable. That disease started in my skin, moved to my eyes, into my optic nerves, and when I went to graduate school, into my brain,’ she said.

She told the president: ‘And should preexisting conditions — which ObamaCare brought into — brought to fruition be removed  … within a 36 to 72-hour period, without my medication, I will be dead.’

When Trump tried to interject to say it would not be removed, she told him: ‘Please stop and let me finish my question, sir.’

‘We are not going to hurt anything having to do with preexisting conditions. We’re not going to hurt preexisting conditions. And — in fact, just the opposite,’ Trump said.

‘If you look at what they want to do, where they have socialized medicine, they will get rid of preexisting conditions,’ Trump claimed. He did not note, as the questioner did, that Obamacare established protections for those with preexisting conditions. 

Stephanopoulos jumped in to confront him: ‘Number one, Joe Biden has ran against Medicare for All in the primaries,’ Stephanopoulos said.

‘But much more importantly, Obamacare guaranteed people with preexisting conditions could buy insurance, guaranteed they could buy it at the same price as everyone else, guaranteed a package of essential benefits, guaranteed that insurance companies couldn’t put a lifetime limit on those benefits,’ Stephanopoulos said.

He also noted that the Trump administration was in court seeking  to strike down the Obamacare law, which includes the preexisting conditions protections. 

Trump pushed back claiming that he had a plan, after Stephanopoulos reminded him: ‘I interviewed you in June of last year, you said the healthcare plan would come in two weeks.

‘I have it all ready – I have it all ready,’ Trump said.

‘You’ve been trying to strike down preexisting conditions,’ Stenphanopoulos said.

‘It doesn’t matter, I have it all ready, and it’s a much better plan for you – and it’s a much better plan,’ Trump responded, in reference to the woman. 

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