Bob Woodward Betrayed Public Trust and Caused Death by Waiting to Come Forward

Luke O'Connell, Co-Editor

     Journalist Bob Woodward has reared his evil head once more. Woodward, who first gained relevance from his coverage of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the subsequent Watergate controversy, has covered the Trump presidency in detail since his election in November of 2016. In his first book on the topic of the sitting president, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which came out on Sep. 11, 2018, Woodward detailed how Donald Trump’s aides dealt with his erratic, and seemingly abusive, behavior.

Bob Woodward circa 2016. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


     Now, with his new book “Rage” which was released on Sep. 14, he’s back for more. Earlier this month, it came out that in a March interview with Woodward, President Trump said that he “wanted to always play [the threat of COVID-19] down,” going on to say, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” 

     It has also come out that Woodward and Trump both knew in January how dangerous the coronavirus actually is. On its face, this is a reprehensible admission that represents the president’s negligent behavior and its coinciding mortal consequences, but it’s important to keep in mind that this doesn’t just reflect on Trump. This reflects on Woodward as well. Despite decades of praise, Woodward’s handling of this information gives us a glimpse of his true character. Rather than releasing the information early on, when he should have, the information is only coming out now.

     After the news broke that President Trump understood the true threat of the coronavirus but didn’t address it until months later, there has been understandable public outrage, albeit somewhat misdirected. Yes, the president’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in America and internationally has been appalling, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also criticize Woodward’s handling of this information. He had a moral responsibility, along with a journalistic one, to keep the public informed and safe whenever possible. 

     Woodward should have gone to media outlets with the information as soon as he got it, and made the public aware of COVID-19’s true threat. The argument that he couldn’t verify what Trump said doesn’t stand, as he himself was the one who spoke to Trump, and combining that fact with his fame amongst political circles means that had he come out sooner, his statements would have been widely believed. Woodward failed to do so.

     If Trump’s mishandling of our current crisis caused the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people and Woodward knew that Trump was downplaying its severity, then isn’t Woodward to blame for at least some of those deaths as well? Had Woodward come out with this information in January, after Trump admitted the coronavirus’ severity, or in March, after more damning evidence, he would have been fulfilling his duty to the public as a journalist, and potentially saving thousands of lives in the process. That’s not what happened, though. He waited months, allowing cases to rise to historic levels, as mentioned earlier. 

     So why would Bob Woodward, a “legendary journalist,” do this? The answer is simple: money and relevance. With this bombshell, Woodward can maintain his influence on American politics and relevance to society, all while making a profit. 

     Releasing the information in January or March, rather than in September, Woodward could have saved lives and done his duty as a journalist. His actions since then show that he would much rather make a profit. Many people are excusing this because he is still anti-Trump, and conveniently ignoring that Woodward screwed up. Though not directly causing them, Woodward is profiting off of the deaths of thousands of people and will continue to do with Rage.

     Woodward’s actions were dangerous, had fatal consequences, and are part of a bigger problem. As a society, we cannot value personal gain and the advancement of our interests over the lives of others, and we cannot justify events like this simply by arguing that it hurts the other side. To be clear: liberals capitalizing on death and suffering is no better than conservatives capitalizing on death and suffering, and one cannot justify doing it by saying it hurts the other side. Woodward and his supporters do not have the moral high ground on this one. Despite not having the power that the president does, Woodward could have used his platform as one of the most well known journalists of all time to call people to action, and maybe even create congressional action to stop COVID-19 earlier on. Woodward had an obligation to keep the public informed, as all journalists do. He had the platform to create change by speaking out. He didn’t, and he caused death in the process.