President Trump on Tuesday claimed he actually “up-played” COVID-19, after telling Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he “always wanted to play it down.” Mr. Trump made the comments during an ABC News town hall with undecided voters.

“I didn’t downplay it. I actually in many ways up-played it in action,” the president told the voter and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, who hosted the town hall. 

Mr. Trump has repeatedly given overoptimistic assessments of the pandemic’s trajectory, including predicting in February, when they were only 15 confirmed cases in the U.S., that the number of cases in the country would go down to zero “within a couple of days.” There have been over 6.6 million confirmed cases and more than 195,000 Americans have died as a result of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Trump also held an in-person rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June, long after most states had implemented lockdown measures preventing large gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Health officials said that rally “likely contributed” to a spike in coronavirus cases. Herman Cain, who attended the rally and was pictured with a group of people not wearing masks, later died of COVID-19.

During the town hall, Mr. Trump also repeated his claim that the virus will simply “disappear.” The president claimed the population will develop a “herd mentality,” seemingly referencing the concept of herd immunity. 

“And you’ll develop, you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd developed and that’s going to happen, that will all happen,” the president said. 

Mr. Trump also said he has no regrets concerning the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming his administration did a great job. 

CBS News polling suggests voters aren’t so pleased with the president’s handling of the pandemic, although approval and disapproval of the president’s performance fall largely along partisan lines. 

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