During an ABC town hall on Monday night, President Donald Trump defended his coronavirus response by claiming he “up-played” the threat to the American people. The statement contradicts the recently released remarks in interviews with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in which Trump explained that he downplayed the initial threat of COVID in order to avoid a national panic.

This statement was of great interest to town hall participants, particularly a student who asked why Trump had minimized the true threat of the “pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities.” Trump explained that by banning travel from China and Europe, he “didn’t downplay it,” and that the Trump Administration “did a very, very good job when (they) put that ban on. I didn’t downplay, I actually, in many ways, I up-played in terms of action. My action was very strong.”

With the COVID-19 death toll in the United States nearing 200,000, participants in the town hall continued to question Trump’s response and plans for future action. When George Stephanopoulos, the moderator of the town hall, asked if Trump felt any regret about the way he handled the COVID outbreak, Trump said he felt he and his administration did a good job. The United States is currently leading the world in number of deaths caused by coronavirus.

Trump was questioned on during the town about the rise in racial tensions in the United States since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in May.

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“Well, I hope there’s not a race problem,” Trump replied to a participant pointing out that the President had failed to acknowledge racial discrimination in the United States, because he himself has “great respect for all races.” Trump also blamed the increasing income inequality that has existed over his four years as president on the coronavirus, and reiterated that he has lowered the unemployment rate for African Americans to the lowest it’s been in history.

Trump also bashed major cities like New York and Portland, Oregon, which have been hit the hardest with racial justice protests, saying that these “Democrat cities” are in the wrong for not cooperating with local police. Stephanopoulos pointed out that despite these cities being governed by Democrats, “they’re American states,” and Trump is America’s leader. Trump responded that they “have things that the Republicans don’t have… It is what it is.”

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