Parents Talk Back by Aisha Sultan

Betrayed By One of Your Own

When I heard the recording of President Donald Trump admitting to Bob Woodward that he wanted to downplay the threat of the coronavirus, which he knew was far deadlier than the flu, I was waiting to hear an update on my husband, who was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Woodward’s forthcoming book is aptly named “Rage.”

Indeed, for the first time in the nine days since my husband had been gravely sick with this virus, I felt something other than overwhelming anxiety and fear. I felt rage from the core of my being.

It was the vaunted investigative team of Woodward and Carl Bernstein whose coverage of the Watergate scandal helped bring down President Richard Nixon. This same journalistic legend sat on tapes of Trump saying in February, “This is deadly stuff,” while later telling the American public it was a Democratic hoax no worse than the flu.

The pandemic has now killed more than 190,000 Americans.

Many have argued that the earlier release of tapes would not have changed this administration’s or its enablers’ response, and I tend to agree with that. But it might have convinced even one Fox News viewer to take this deadly virus more seriously. When Woodward heard the president telling the public a story entirely different than what he had said to him, while death and disease ravaged through the country, he faced an ethical decision.

He chose his book over the public’s right to know during a severe public health crisis.

If I had to pick a person least likely to get COVID-19 based strictly on their behavior, I would say my husband.

Since the pandemic began, he has not eaten inside a restaurant, been in a crowd or entered a single store without a mask. The only trip he’s taken was a weekend of camping. He works in hospital administration, so he has gone to work each day as an essential worker. Even when he’s working alone in his office, he wears the medical-grade N-95 given to hospital staff. He’s worn that mask at least eight hours a day, every weekday, for six months.

On the eighth day of his illness, which has been a hundred times worse than any flu and made him sicker than I’ve ever seen in 20 years of marriage, I drove my formerly healthy husband to the emergency room.

He received steroids, an experimental antiviral drug and convalescent plasma in a COVID isolation ward.

We discussed the Woodward tapes via text, because no one was allowed to be near him while he fought his health battle.

There’s no way for us to know exactly where he got the virus. He works in a heavily Republican county that never issued a mask order. We live in a red state run by a governor who followed the Trump approach to handling the pandemic: Gov. Mike Parson left it up to local counties to handle -- or mishandle -- their response, much like Trump left governors scrambling. Missouri has been among the top states with new confirmed cases per 1,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins data at the time he got sick.

But while I didn’t have any expectation that Trump or the leaders who support him would behave any differently than they have, I would have expected something better from a member of my own tribe of journalists. With someone I love fighting for his life, the news of those tapes hit like an intense betrayal.

I’m focused on my husband’s recovery and grateful for the medical team taking care of him. He is showing hopeful signs of improvement, and recently came home from the hospital with oxygen. The doctors told us to expect a lengthy recovery.

Our country has collectively lost so much during the long months of this pandemic. People have lost their lives, loved ones, livelihoods, education and sense of security.

Now, I’ve also lost any shred of respect I had for Bob Woodward.