Jun 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Navarro says Trump's call for less coronavirus testing was "tongue-in-cheek"

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's claim at his rally that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing was "tongue-in-cheek," calling it a "light moment."

Why it matters: Trump said as recently as last week that coronavirus testing is "overrated," arguing that it makes the U.S. "look bad" because it leads to a higher number of confirmed cases.

  • However, the significant spike in cases that's been recorded in recent weeks in states like Arizona, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Florida isn't solely attributable to more testing.
  • Joe Biden immediately pounced on Trump's comments, releasing a statement that called them "outrageous" and "appalling." "Speed up the testing," Biden tweeted.

The exchange:

NAVARRO: "Come on now, Jake, you know it was tongue-in-cheek. That was tongue-in-cheek, please."
JAKE TAPPER: "I don't know that it was tongue-in-cheek at all. He has said similar things for months."
NAVARRO: "We've got over 30 million people unemployed and we've seen over 100,000 people die because of the China, Wuhan virus. Let's talk about some serious issues, Jake. I don't want to go there."
TAPPER: "I think that testing is a very serious issue. I'm not the one making jokes about it. You're the one that said the president was being tongue-in-cheek."
NAVARRO: "Come on, it was a light moment."

The big picture: Navarro said that "of course" the administration is preparing for a potential second wave of the coronavirus in the fall, arguing, "You prepare for what can possibly happen — I'm not saying it's going to happen, but of course you prepare."

  • Navarro also claimed, without evidence, that China "created this pandemic," refusing to rule out the claim that the coronavirus was purposely manufactured in a lab. The U.S. intelligence community has said there’s enough evidence to conclude that the virus evolved naturally.
  • Navarro later clarified that he meant that the virus was "spawned" in China, and he called the Chinese Communist Party "guilty until proven innocent."

Go deeper: U.S. reports highest number of new coronavirus cases since May 1

Go deeper