As the coronavirus crisis worsened dramatically this week, so, too, did President Donald Trump's tone.
No longer downplaying the seriousness of the situation or mocking political opponents for hyping a "hoax," he was noticeably more somber -- some said more presidential.
When asked why, Trump denied anything had changed.
"I've always viewed it as very serious," he said Tuesday. "There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar but some said it wasn't."
"This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."
His own comments show just the opposite.
In late January, when a CNBC reporter asked if there were “worries about a pandemic” spreading from China, where it was first reported in December, he replied, “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
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While speaking about the first cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. at a White House news conference on Feb. 26, he claimed that "pretty soon" there could only be one or two people affected.
“We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people,” Trump said. “And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.”
The next day, at a White House meeting, he said, "It's going to disappear. One day -- it's like a miracle - it will disappear." He has suggested, without firm scientific evidence, that warmer weather would stop the spread.
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As the virus continued to spread across the country and local governments took unprecedented steps to protect residents, Trump on March 7, while standing next to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, said that he was "not concerned at all" that the virus could spread into the White House. “No, I’m not. No, we’ve done a great job,” he said.
Reacting to challenges to his claim that he "felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic" and after a New York Times headline Wednesday morning that said "Trump Rewrites History," he fired off a tweet attacking what he called the “Fake News news narrative” as “disgraceful & false.”
“I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!” Trump tweeted.
He "closed the borders from China" -- blocking travel into the U.S.-- on Jan. 31 but continued making many dismissive comments well after that.
Pressed on Wednesday about the influence those comments might have on Americans, especially his political supporters and young people who might feel they're not as vulnerable -- he responded, “Well, I think my earlier comments were to be calm.”