President Trump on Tuesday night participated in ABC's Presidential Town Hall, presented from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and hosted by news anchor George Stephanopolous.
Asked by an audience member about the pandemic response in regard to vulnerable people in particular, Trump said, "We’ve worked very hard on the pandemic," pointing to the work his administration has done with obtaining ventilators and planning for vaccines, even though the latter is yet to become available.
Trump went on to claim that the previous administration would have taken "perhaps years" to get a vaccine organized. "It’s a terrible thing," he said of the virus, but repeated his personal belief, though not that of medical experts, that the U.S. has fared well compared to other countries with nearly "84 million tests" performed." He said "next would be India with 50 million less."
Trump also claimed that his actions in closing America's borders to travelers from China "saved a lot of lives," alleging that China's death toll was higher than claimed because the country doesn't reveal their true statistics.
As the president has claimed erroneously multiple times before, Trump again reiterated his belief that the U.S. has "more cases because we do more testing." The claim has repeatedly been flagged as incorrect by experts. "I don’t want to scare people, I don’t want to make people panic," of his mentality going into the pandemic and referencing the controversy arising from Bob Woodward's book in which Trump is on tape privately aware of the seriousness of the virus but was at the time publicly playing it down. "I’m a cheerleader for this nation," the president said.
Trump later said of his administration's response to the virus, "I think we did it exactly right," and said he is pushing for things to reopen. The president said he doesn't think he "downplayed" the virus and claimed that there would be "2 million or more" deaths if he had not acted so quickly when the outbreak happened. "I actually — in many ways I up-played it in terms of action," said Trump. "My action was very strong."
Asked about racial tensions and the recent killing of Black men and women at the hands of police, Trump said that typically the police "do a phenomenal job" overall, while sometimes there are "bad apples," or bad things that happen when law enforcement have to make fast decisions.
"You have to allow the police to do their job otherwise crime is going to soar," said Trump, noting that the police deserve respect.
Referencing Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," an audience member asked when American life has been "great" for African Americans "in the ghetto of America." Trump claimed it was the best "just 6 or 7 months ago" in regard to employment and homeownership.
When an audience member brought up the face that a "race problem" exists in America, Trump noted that he hopes there is not and said that he himself has "great respect for all races, for everybody."
Multiple times during the discussion, Trump referred to the coronavirus as the "plague" or the "China virus." Responding to an audience member who asked what the most difficult part of his presidency has been, Trump said, "So I think without question, I would say — because things were going so well, I think I'd have to say the whole COVID — the China virus, as I call it — because it comes from China, I think it's a much more accurate term."