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President Donald Trump speaks to the press prior to his departure from the White House to Philadelphia to participate in an ABC News town hall event. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Loading the player...

Despite saying in his own words that he downplayed the severity of COVID-19 and the threat it posed to Americans, President Donald Trump is now saying the exact opposite.

In a town hall forum conducted by ABC News which featured a small audience of undecided voters who asked difficult questions of the president, he maintained, “I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action.”

“My action was very strong,” Trump said.

During the special @abc2020 town hall, Pres. Trump said he "didnt downplay" the coronavirus, even though he has admitted to just that.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said in an interview with Bob Woodward, according to CNN.

— ABC News (@ABC) September 16, 2020

Trump’s response was to a Black student who asked, “If you believe it’s the president’s responsibility to protect America, why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities?”

When she tried to clarify, saying, “Did you not admit to it yourself, saying that you …” the president cut her off. He then cited his decision to “ban” travel to the U.S. from China in late January and to bar most travel from Europe in March as the signs of his strong decision making.

“We did a very good job when we put that ban on,” Trump said.

Read More: Trump health official goes on Twitter rant about conspiracy theories, armed revolt

“Whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important,” he continued, “so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who hosted the town hall, noted, “There were holes in the ban, and the European ban didn’t come for another month.”

The president replied, “Well, they were Americans. I mean the holes in where if you have somebody in China that’s an American citizen, we had to let them in.”

Read More: Michael Cohen says Trump’s dislike of Obama ‘purely racial’

More than 27,000 Americans returned from mainland China in the first month after the restrictions took effect.

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward released several clips of his 18 interviews with the president that was part of his research for his new book, “Rage.” In one interview, Trump says of the coronavirus, “I wanted to always play it down … I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

“I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be okay. We’re going to be okay, and it is going away,” Trump said during Tuesday’s town hall.

Read More: US outlines sweeping plan to provide free COVID-19 vaccines

“And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines,” he contended. “It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.”

More than 196,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, including more than 1,200 on the day of the president’s town hall.

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Trying to go 2 for 2 as senior, Furyk leads at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Jim Furyk birdied four of the last six holes for an 8-under 64 and the first-round lead Friday in the PGA Tour Champions’ Pure Insurance Championship.

Trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bruce Fleisher as the only players to win their first two starts on the senior tour, Furyk had a one-stroke lead over Ernie Els, Cameron Beckman and Stephen Leaney.

“I think some of it’s I’ve been playing on two courses that I know very well,” said Furyk, The Ally Championship winner last month in Michigan in his tour debut. “I played 15 events at Flint, I probably played over 20 events here at Pebble Beach. The good news is I got to start on two places I was very comfortable with, enjoy both golf courses.”

Furyk made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on his opening nine in the afternoon round. On his second nine, he birdied the par-5 second, rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 third with a birdie on the fourth and reeled off three straight on Nos. 6-8.

“I know this game can be just as mean as well, so really thankful to get off to a good start,” Furyk said. “But still have a great golf course in front of me and two more days, so just want to keep trying to do the same thing and keep making some birdies.”

Els had his third hole-in-one of the season, using a 6-iron on the 201-yard 12th hole.

“That’s very unusual,” Els said. “Normally, you make a hole-in-one every three years. I’ve made one every two, three weeks, so it’s ridiculous. I should go to the casino because maybe there’s a bit of luck involved.”

Els lost a playoff in his senior debut in Hawaii in January in the season opener, then won the Hoag Classic in March down the California coast in Newport Beach.

Beckman is making his third career senior start.

Dicky Pride and Doug Barron shot 66. Bernhard Langer was at 68 with David Toms, Kevin Sutherland, Kent Jones, Scott Parel, Gene Sauers and Robin Byrd.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the Sanford International winner last week in South Dakota, opened with a 69.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is being played without spectators and juniors from The First Tee program. The amateur field was cut to 80.

Furyk was excited to get back on the course Saturday morning.

“Get home, get some rest, get dinner and right back at it in the morning,” he said. “Definitely had some moisture sucked out of the golf course this afternoon and greens started firming up, so it will be good to get out there with some softer greens in the morning.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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