Monday’s with Ms. Marvel: Trump tapes

In+her+weekly+column%2C+Monday+with+Ms.+Marvel%2C+Wingspan%27s+Trisha+Dasgupta+reviews+different+political+issues+and+relatable+topics+in+everyday+life.

Morgan Kong

In her weekly column, Monday with Ms. Marvel, Wingspan's Trisha Dasgupta reviews different political issues and relatable topics in everyday life.

Trisha Dasgupta, Editor-in-Chief

Bob Woodward, one of the journalists who broke the Watergate stories, released exclusive tapes from a series of interviews he conducted with President Trump from January to March of this year, tapes that included the President admitting that the administration was purposely downplaying the extent of the danger of the COVID-19 virus to the American people.

This by no surprise made major headlines, however, people are not only talking about the content of the interviews but the manner and time at which the tapes were made public. Many critics of Woodward, including the President himself, have pointed out the strange timing at which the tapes were released: almost six months after the initial interview.

It’s not an unfair question to ask- if Woodward thought that the information in the tapes was vital to the American public like he claims he does, why did he wait for six months to release them? The answer is glaringly obvious when you remember that Woodward has a book set to hit shelves this week, eight days after he finally released the tapes. 

Woodward didn’t hold onto the tapes to fact check them or to get more information, he held onto them until he had a monetary motivation too, and in doing so set a deeply unethical example for all political journalists who look up to him. 

It was irresponsible of Woodward to hold onto the interviews for as long as he did. 

The United States has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in comparison to every other developed country, and in part due to the number of anti-maskers and COVID deniers who have been fueled by the words of the President himself. Who knows how the trajectory of this pandemic could have changed if the American people had heard Trump admit to the dangers of the virus early on? How many minds would have changed if they had heard tapings of the President admitting his lies? 

How many lives could have been saved?

Now, I’m not saying that Woodward’s decision to hold onto the tapes was the sole cause of a large number of COVID-19 cases in the US, but it’s not dramatic to state that the course of this pandemic could have been altered if we had been able to put a pause to the COVID-19 denial movement early in its tracks. 

Woodward claims that he waited to release the interviews because he wanted to be able to give his readers the “best attainable version of the truth” and that the context he was trying to provide could only be achieved through the caliber of a book. Furthermore, he stated that he wanted ample time to face check that what the President said about the dangers of COVID-19 were true, saying that he was worried about giving wrong medical information to the public. However, that argument falls flat. 

The story that lies in those tapes isn’t that COVID-19 is dangerous. The story is that the President of the United States admitted to lying to the public. Woodward didn’t need to spend months, much less six, fact-checking with health experts. He needed to get the information out to the American people that the President was downplaying the dangers of the virus, with his source being the President himself. 

Some have been quick to come to Woodward’s defense, saying that it would have been in poor taste for him to have released those tapes before the book as he had an agreement with Trump on the nature of the interviews. However, Woodward shot that down himself, saying that there was no agreement on how and when the interview was going to be published- he had complete control. 

Waiting to release information vital to millions of people until you can profit off of it is a cold move at any given moment but in the midst of a pandemic? It can quite literally be deadly. 

Ethics in politics and journalism has never been more important to discuss, especially at a time when the general public distrust in the media is at an all-time high. But, can you blame people for saying that they don’t trust the media when a prominent journalist pulls something like this? 

I still remember being a freshman sitting in Journalism I watching All the President’s Men for the first time and being incredibly inspired. I remembered thinking about how much courage it would have taken for Woodward and Bernstein to have gone ahead and written that story, and how much I admired them for it.

As a student journalist who plans on pursuing an education in journalism and has spent the last three years trying to see how I can emulate that courage in my own life and writing, I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I was when I realized that a hero of mine appears to have chosen money over his duty to the American people.