Celebrities in Hollywood are leading a charge in calling for another impeachment of Donald Trump after excerpts from journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book “Rage” contained remarks from the president earlier this year that show him downplaying the threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic in its early stage.
According to excerpts of Woodward’s book, which were published Wednesday by the Washington Post, Trump told the journalist during a recorded February telephone interview that the situation regarding the virus was much more dire than he was admitting publicly.
At the time, Trump told Woodward that the coronavirus was "deadly stuff" while publicly comparing it to the seasonal flu. More than a month later, on March 19, Trump admitted to Woodward that he "wanted to always play it [the virus] down.
"I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic," Trump added at the time.
Following the newly-reported comments, a few notable names in Hollywood leaped to criticize Trump's approach.
“Trump knew the deadly severity of the virus, lied to US, and continues to lie to US. Game, set, match," tweeted actor and film director Rob Reiner.
Meanwhile, funnyman Patton Oswalt took to Twitter and called Trump’s actions of “playing down” the virus “criminal negligence.”
“So... we arrest him, right? Someone arrest him? Criminal negligence? Nearly 200,000 dead? Arrest him? Right? Right? Anyone?” the comedian wrote.
Other Twitter users chimed that the public shouldn’t expect any kind of recourse for Trump or his handling of the virus and pandemic simply on the notion that he appears untouchable when it involves his admissions heard on audio recordings.
“I caution anyone thinking these tapes are going to be the smoking gun,” replied one user to Reiner. “He was literally caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and still was elected President. Never underestimate the lack of a moral compass for millions of Americans.”
Another replied to Reiner that Trump “deceived the American people.”
“Trump told Bob Woodward in February (it’s on tape) that he knew how deadly COVID-19 was. Knew covid killed! So what did he do? He lied about it! He deceived the American people. He held a rally in Tulsa shortly after, sans mask. No masks, no social distancing. He’s a [sic] despicable,” fumed the commenter.
Fellow comedian Michael Ian Black also piled on in condemning Trump’s actions as president.
“What’s so nuts is that this was a golden political opportunity for him to demonstrate resolve, strength, toughness, all qualities he supposedly possesses,” tweeted Black. “All he had to do was lead. He couldn’t do it.”
Trump defended his comments in an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday, stating that he wanted to "show a calmness."
"I'm the leader of the country, I can't be jumping up and down and scaring people," Trump told Hannity. "I don't want to scare people. I want people not to panic, and that's exactly what I did."
Trump also defended his early response to the pandemic, citing his late January decision to limit flights to the U.S. from China, a move Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden panned as in keeping with what he called Trump's "record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering."
"If you look at the representatives of Joe Biden, you see what they were saying. They were saying 'no problem', 'this won't be a problem,'" Trump told Hannity. "He didn't think it was going to be a problem until months later. He was way late."
The president also recalled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., touring San Francisco's Chintown in late February in an apparent bid to ease fears about the virus.
"Nobody wanted me to do the ban on China, and as you know, shortly thereafter, I [instituted] a ban on [travel from] Europe, and that was even more controversial, and it was good, because I saw what was going on in Italy and in Spain and in France, and we did a ban there," Trump said.
"And if we didn't do those bans, we would have had numbers that were much, much [worse]."
Fox News’ Charles Crietz and Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report