President Trump on Tuesday insisted that he wasn’t kidding when he told attendees at his campaign rally over the weekend in Tulsa that he asked his administration to “slow the testing down, please” on the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Tuesday morning, Trump was pressed on whether he was kidding when he made the claim at his poorly attended rally.
“I don’t kid, let me make it clear,” Trump said. “We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world, and we have the most of them. By having more tests, we find more cases. We did 25 million tests.”
The President then argued that “testing is a double-edged sword” before reiterating that the country is “doing a great job” on it.
“In one way, it tells you, you have cases. In other way, you find out where the cases are and you do a good job,” Trump said. “We are doing a great job. We have never been credited for it. We’re doing the best testing job anywhere in the world.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the President’s “I don’t kid” remark aboard Air Force One later Tuesday. She argued that he “appreciates testing” and that he was “using sarcasm.”
“He was making a serious point, which is why he said, ‘I don’t kid.’ He was noting — he was making a serious point but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally,” McEnany said. “The serious point he was making was when you test more people, you identify more cases. But the cases shouldn’t be indicative of the progress we’ve made. Per capita we have fewer fatalities than Europe.”
Trump’s latest remarks come a day after he refused to confirm whether he requested that his staff “slow the testing down” during an interview with “Scripps.”
Trump’s newfound defense of his remarks at his Tulsa rally contradict White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s explanation the day before when she said that the President made the comment at the rally “in jest.”
“Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact,” McEnany said during a White House briefing on Monday.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro shared a similar defense of Trump’s original remarks during an interview on CNN Sunday morning, saying that the President was being “tongue in cheek.”
Watch Trump’s remarks below:
Trump says "I don't kid" when asked whether he was kidding when he claimed he had instructed officials to slow down COVID-19 testing at Tulsa rally pic.twitter.com/ODjJsdLHgQ
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) June 23, 2020