US President Donald Trump was right not to cause panic about the seriousness of COVID-19 earlier this year, the United States' Ambassador to New Zealand says.
Extracts from an upcoming book by renowned journalist Bob Woodward were released earlier this week, with one revelation being the US President purposefully downplayed the seriousness of the virus so not to panic Americans.
"I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic," Trump said in March.
It came after the President told Woodward that the virus wasn't only potentially harmful to older people, but young people as well.
After the release of the recordings, Trump stood by the comments, saying he didn't want to drive the country or the world into "a frenzy" and instead wanted to show confidence and strength.
Speaking to The AM Show on Friday, Ambassador Scott Brown said information was initially scarce about the virus and Trump did take some decisive actions quickly when there were only a small number of cases in the US.
"It came out of China. We didn't know if it was going to be like what it is. No one knew because they were holding things back. They didn't fully disclose. Their people were leaving China in droves affecting the entire world. We had 70,000 people die last year from the flu. That is serious too," Brown said.
"We closed down the airports and he was called a racist xenophobe."
Brown said downplaying the virus was the right call by the President.
"The fact that he is downplaying it, I am glad we didn't go into a big panic. Then you have got hoarding of toilet paper and no meat, things flying off the shelves. A tempered response until you have all the facts is absolutely right and he is being hammered for it," Brown said.
"He could have done the complete opposite and have told everybody and there would have been panic and he would get hammered for it. It's politics."
More than 6.5 million people in the US have been infected and 196,000 have died. Brown acknowledged that every world leader could have done better in combatting the virus' spread, but it had come "so far out of left field". He said people need to work together to create commonsense solutions.
The United States' top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who has worked intimately with Trump on the country's response to the virus, has said the President never distorted anything about the threat of COVID-19 and that what Trump said publicly was largely in line with what he was told privately.
Trump's opponents and some experts in the medical community have, however, said that if Trump showed greater urgency earlier this year, lives could have been saved.
"It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people," the Democrats' Joe Biden said.
Woodward's book, titled Rage, is due out on September 15.