So the huge question remains as to why Woodward, knowing what he knew [that Trump knew] when he knew it, kept quiet with information that conceivably could have helped save tens of thousands of lives. His self-defense, that he needed time to verify Trump’s statements to him, simply does not suffice. And it brought back to mind the inconvenient detail that [Bob] Woodward was one of the editors who oversaw [Janet] Cooke’s article and nominated it for a Pulitzer.
For me, this issue is no delicious bit of “gotcha.” It gives me no pleasure to criticize a legendary journalist whose investigation of Watergate with Carl Bernstein inspired many of my generation to become reporters. For 25 years and four books, I shared the same editor (Alice Mayhew of Simon & Schuster) with Woodward. His daughter was a cherished colleague of mine at Columbia Journalism School.
But, as [Chicago writer, Mike] Royko told us nearly 40 years ago, a journalist has to be a human being first.
Woodward could have published his scoop about Trump’s true attitude toward COVID-19 back in February. Or he could have done it in March or April, when cases began surging in New York and California. He could have done it any time before the well-planned roll-out for his book.
Yet he held back. And, as a book author, I can intuit why: all the buzz about Trump’s COVID-19 quotes, backed up by the release of the tapes, would help “Rage” sell a huge number of copies, even by Woodward’s best-selling standards. That decision is morally repugnant.
It is irrelevant whether Trump might have responded more diligently to the pandemic had Woodward outed him, whether he might have followed science instead of pandering to his base. Woodward cannot be expected to control what Trump might have done. But Woodward had absolute control over what Woodward did.