Famed reporter Bob Woodward is dropping his new book about President Trump, Rage, next week. Woodward has already leaked the book’s juiciest excerpts to the media, such as the the President telling him during an interview on March 19 that he wanted to ‘play down’ the severity of the coronavirus in order to avoid a panic among the American people. This comment has led Trump’s critics to call for his resignation or for him to be impeached a second time.
Rage, however, is perhaps more revelatory about its author than its subject. Let’s assume that the critics are right, and that Trump’s decision to portray calm in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was wrong and cost thousands of lives. Didn’t Woodward have an obligation to tell the public that the President said the virus was ‘deadly’ in February and that he admitted to ‘playing it down’ in March? Isn’t it rather sociopathic to hang on to a potentially life-saving piece of information for five months so that you can sell a few more copies of a book?
Woodward will never admit, of course, that the interviews aren’t really a ‘bombshell’. It was obvious in February that Trump was strategically downplaying the virus while scientists tried to figure out what was going on, and everyone knew it. Even after the first COVID-19 death in the US, when it became clear that the pandemic would be much worse than expected, Trump urged the media and politicians to ‘not do anything to incite the panic, because there is no reason to panic at all’. It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but Trump’s messaging was not noticeably different from Dr Fauci’s at the time. The good doctor even told Fox News, ‘I didn’t see any discrepancies what he told us and what we told him and what he ultimately came out publicly and said…I didn’t get any sense that he was distorting anything.’
But sensibility doesn’t sell books to hysterical leftists, nor does it sway elections. Hey, did anyone else notice that Woodward conveniently dropped his book less than two months before Election Day?
The administration’s coronavirus response isn’t the only place Woodward hit Trump in the gut — another excerpt of the book that is being deliberately distorted in leaks to the media involves race relations, a notably sore spot for Republicans. According to headlines from NBC News, Business Insider and the Hill, Trump told Woodward he has ‘no responsibility’ to ‘understand the pain of Black Americans’. Yikes, sounds cold. Except the full exchange reveals some vital missing context. Woodward actually asked Trump, ‘Do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave to a certain extent, as it put me and I think lots of white privileged people in a cave and that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and pain, particularly, black people feel in this country?’ The President replied, ‘No. You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.’ Ah, so Trump doesn’t think he lives in a ‘white privilege cave’. Fair enough.
Sadly this isn’t the first time Woodward, who has spent most of his career coasting off of his reportage on the Watergate scandal, has allegedly twisted the facts in exchange for fame and fortune. Woodward’s own editor at the Washington Post doubted his claims about communicating with ‘Deep Throat’ via flags in potted plants, and a 2008 book allegedly demolishes the idea that ‘Deep Throat’ was just one individual. Dan Aykroyd, a good friend of John Belushi, accused Woodward of fabricating stories for his attempted biography of the late comedian. And Woodward was mocked by the media in 2013 after released email exchanges showed he had greatly exaggerated a claim that he was ‘threatened’ by the Obama administration. The list goes on, according to Politico.
Woodward’s last book about Trump in 2018, Fear, had similar issues. Then chief-of-staff John Kelly and defense secretary Jim Mattis both denied quotes disparaging Trump that were attributed to them in the book. Gary Cohn and Rob Porter similarly said the book did not accurately represent their time in the White House.
The mainstream media pretends that Woodward is infallible because they love the nostalgia of Watergate-era journalism, when reporters supposedly snuck around dark alleys in trench coats and cracked riddles from sources. Woodward’s record tells a different story and is a good reminder to be skeptical about the embellished claims in his latest piece of story-telling.