'I don't kid': Trump denies joking about slowing down Covid-19 testing after aide said comment was 'in jest'
President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, June 23, denied joking about slowing down coronavirus testing in the United States and instead reiterated his claim that the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country was because of more testing.
Trump, as he departed the White House for Arizona, said: "I don't kid. By having more tests, we find more cases.' He added that testing was a "double-edged sword". The Republican had made a similar point on Sunday, April 20, during his Tulsa Rally, stating that he told his people to "slow down the testing, please" in an effort for the US to have lower coronavirus numbers.
Shortly after the president made the statement, his critics slammed him for it, including his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign, which called his statement "stunning and outrageous."
The White House, ever since Trump's statement, had attempted to clean up after him with Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro saying that the Republican leader was being "tongue-in-cheek". Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also stated the same during the press briefing of June 22, saying that the president made the comment "in jest." "Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact," she said.
"The president was trying to expose that what the media oftentimes does is they ignore the fact that the United States has more cases because we have more testing," she explained. "We are leading the world on testing. It was a comment that he made in jest. It was a comment that he made in passing." When the press secretary was asked whether Trump should be making jokes about the coronavirus when more than 122,000 Americans have died, McEnany replied with: "He was not joking about coronavirus, I just said he was joking about the media and their failure to understand the fact that when you test more you'll also find more cases."
Trump, before the briefing of June 22, was interviewed by broadcast journalist Joe St George where he dodged the question twice concerning whether he asked the government officials to slow down coronavirus testings.
Trump, during his Tulsa rally, had said: "We did 25-plus, 25 million tests. Think of that — 25 million. If you look at other countries they did 1 million, 2 million, 3 million. Big countries. We did 25 million, way more by double, triple, quadruple any other country. Therefore, with tests, we're going to have more cases. By having more cases, it sounds bad. But actually what it is, is we're finding people, many of those people aren't sick." The president added that because America is finding all these coronavirus cases "we have a very low mortality rate."
"Just about the best in the world," Trump added.
The World Health Organization, however, slammed Trump's assertion that the cases were increasing because of ramped-up testing.
The executive director of WHO's emergencies program, Mike Ryan, during a press conference in Geneva, said: "We do not believe that this is a testing phenomenon. Clearly when you look at the hospital admissions, [they] are also rising in a number of countries and deaths are also rising. They’re not due to increased testing per se. So there definitely is a shift in the sense that the virus is now very well established on a global level."