President Trump told reporter Bob Woodward that he was deliberately understating the severity of the novel coronavirus, which the president knew was deadly, The Washington Post reports.

In his forthcoming book Rage, Woodward writes that Trump told him that the virus was “deadly stuff” and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward in February. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

In public, Trump repeatedly dismissed the threat of the coronavirus as it raged across the U.S. On March 10, he said, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” The next day, he said, “The vast majority of Americans, the risk is very, very low.”

On social media, Woodward was criticized for waiting to report Trump’s comments in his book instead of reporting them in February. “I don’t know you sit on this for six months,” tweeted journalist Scott Nover. “This is really troubling. As journalists we’re supposed to work in the public interest. I think there’s been a failure here.”

Trump himself struck a similar chord, tweeting on Thursday morning, “Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

Rage goes on sale next Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.