Mich. Gov. Whitmer calls Pres. Trump 'biggest threat to the American people' for handling of COVID-19

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer slammed President Donald Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, just one day after news broke that he said in a private conversation earlier this year that he "wanted to always play it down."

"I think the biggest enemy of the state right now is the misinformation that's coming out of the Head of the State. I think the biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now," she said during her COVID-19 news conference in Lansing. 

The news comes at the six-month mark for the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, with the state's first case being confirmed on March 10. Since then, more than 108,000 cases have been confirmed in the state and more than 6,500 people have died. 

The news of President Trump's conversation indicates he seemed to understand the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said.

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Gov. Whitmer addressed Trump's comments Thursday at her news conference, saying it was "devastating" to hear that when "we've been working so hard to save lives."

"I've had a lot of emotions about it, to be honest, because I've seen our nursing home workers who are already going through PTSD because of all the stress and loss of people they care for and that they care about. I've seen our grocery store workers who have been pushed to the brink and worked so many extra hours, not to mention the health care workers on the frontlines in our hospitals," she said. 

"My personal opinion was this administration has been reckless and not particularly well-informed. I've never believed they read all the briefings they're supposed to read. But it's a whole other thing to be reckless or ignorant and to be deceptive and to have American lives lost because of it. They knew and they didn't tell us. And I think the biggest enemy of the state right now is the misinformation that's coming out of the head of the state. I think the biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now and it's devastating and I do not relish saying that. But the fact of the matter is, there's been so much more loss of life because we haven't had accurate, consistent medical information just coming out of chief executive of our nation," she continued. 

She also expressed concern over a rally that the president is hosting later Thursday evening in Saginaw County, a region that's seeing, on a weekly average, more than 40 cases per million people per day. The president's visit comes just one day after Joe Biden also visited Michigan and spoke in Warren.

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"Today there will be some people gathering in Saginaw County, a county we're watching very closely for the numbers of COVID. And the president I know is coming to town and if the rallies are like those he's held in recent days in other states, there will be lots of people close together without masks on projecting their voices. And I'm concerned about it. And this is not a partisan observation. We're in a public health crisis. We all want to get out of this public health crisis. And it's going to take every one of us doing the right things to get out of this together and to make this as short as possible," Gov. Whitmer said. 

"We will not be here forever. I'm hopeful it's a matter of months; I believe that to be the case. But every one of us has to do our part and we have to be honest about how serious this situation is."

You can watch Gov. Whitmer's remarks in full in the video player above.  

As for the president's quotes in Woodward's book, Trump tweeted earlier Thursday morning about it. 

"Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn't he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn't he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!"