- The veteran reporter Carl Bernstein, who reported on the Watergate scandal with Bob Woodward, has said his former colleague's revelations about President Donald Trump and COVID-19 are "graver than in Watergate."
- Woodward recorded the president telling him in February that the novel coronavirus was "deadly" and then telling him in March that he "always" downplayed its impact.
- Trump reasoned that he did not want to spread panic, and the White House has said he's never lied to the American public.
- Bernstein on Wednesday accused the president of endangering the health of Americans to further his reelection prospects, framing it as "a kind of homicidal negligence."
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Carl Bernstein, the veteran journalist best known for his reporting on the Watergate scandal with Bob Woodward, has said his former colleague's tapes of President Donald Trump admitting to downplaying COVID-19 have a "graver" impact than Watergate.
Woodward and Bernstein reported on the series of events in the early 1970s — known collectively as the Watergate scandal — that eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Now, following recordings made by Woodward for his new book on Trump, "Rage," Bernstein has said the implications are "even graver than in Watergate."
Woodward on Wednesday released a series of recordings of his on-the-record conversations with Trump, which include:
- One on February 7, in which Trump said he was aware the novel coronavirus was deadlier than severe flus.
- One on March 19, in which Trump said: "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."
In a Wednesday interview with CNN, Bernstein said the tapes were "even more devastating than Nixon's tapes" — referring to audio recordings of conversations in which Nixon and other White House officials discussed covering up the break-in at the Democratic National Committee's offices in the Watergate complex.
"We are listening to the president of the United States on tape deliberately undermining the national security of the United States, the health and well-being of the people of the United States," he added.
"And he's doing this knowingly, in real time. It is the smoking gun of his negligence."
Bernstein also suggested that Trump had sacrificed "thousands and thousands and thousands" of Americans for "his own narrow presidential reelection efforts."
He called it "a kind of homicidal negligence," adding: "This is one of the great presidential felonies of all time, maybe the greatest."
More than 190,000 Americans with COVID-19 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Bernstein called on Republicans to hold the president accountable for the tapes, likening it to when senior Republicans asked Nixon to resign after the Watergate revelations.
"The Republican leadership, including Barry Goldwater ... went to the White House and told Nixon he had to resign, and the facts here are even graver than in Watergate," he said.
Trump has downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus multiple times. For example, on March 7 — weeks after telling Woodward the virus was especially deadly — he was still publicly comparing it to the common flu.
Business Insider has contacted the White House for comment on Bernstein's remarks.
Trump defended his comments on Wednesday, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity: "I'm the leader of the country, I can't be jumping up and down and scaring people ... I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic, and that's exactly what I did."
The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, also told reporters on Wednesday that Trump had never lied to the American public about COVID-19, saying: "The president has always been clear-eyed with the American people."