Jun 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump declines to say he was joking about slowing down coronavirus testing

In an interview with Scripps' Joe St. George on Monday, President Trump declined to confirm that he was joking when he said at a campaign rally Saturday that he asked officials to slow down coronavirus testing because a higher case total makes the U.S. look bad.

Why it matters: Joe Biden pounced on the line, calling it"an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle." White House officials told reporters after the rally that Trump was joking, and economic adviser Peter Navarro insisted on Sunday that the president's comments were "tongue-in-cheek."

  • But the comments were similar to what Trump has said in the past. Last week, he told the Wall Street Journal that testing is "overrated."
  • And on Monday, the president continued to blame high testing numbers for the amount of positive cases.

The exchange:

TRUMP: "If we did slow it down, we wouldn't show nearly as many cases. You're showing people that are asymptomatic, you're showing people that have very little problem, you're showing young people that don't have a problem. But we're doing so much testing, 25 million tests."
ST. GEORGE: "But did you ask to slow it down?"
TRUMP: "Uhh, if it did slow down, frankly, I think we're way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We've done too good a job, because every time we go up — with 25 million tests, you're going to find more people. So then they say, 'oh we have more cases in the United States.' The reason we have more cases is because we do more testing than any other country by far."

Worth noting: Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, told the Wall Street Journal last week that increased testing does lead to more cases reported, but he said higher percentages of positive tests results in many states "cannot be explained by increased testing."

The big picture: The U.S. has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with 2,281,903 from 27,084,900 tests as of Monday morning. 119,977 people have died.

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