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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.

Go deeper

Sep 29, 2020 - Sports

Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak

Cutouts of fans are afixed to seats before the game between the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The NFL announced Tuesday that three players and five staffers from the Tennessee Titans tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the temporary closure of the team's facility, ESPN reports.

Why it matters: It's the league's first outbreak during the season, which is not taking place in a "bubble," like the NBA and MLS, and looks set to test if its coronavirus protocols will hold.

Trump and Biden clash over COVID: "It is what it is because you are who you are"

Joe Biden attacked President Trump at the presidential debate on Tuesday for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, accusing him of panicking and failing to prepare for the crisis when he was warned about it in February.

The big picture: "It is what it is because you are who you are," Biden said, alluding to an answer Trump gave in an interview with "Axios on HBO" when asked about the 150,000+ death toll from the coronavirus. Trump responded by claiming that Biden would not have shut down travel from China in the early days of the pandemic, and he defended his administration's mass production of ventilators and protective equipment.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford University's 90%-effective vaccine.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 coronavirus deaths — Americans line up for testing ahead of Thanksgiving.
  3. Travel: Air travel's COVID-created future — Over 1 million U.S. travelers flew on Friday, despite calls to avoid holiday travel.
  4. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. coronavirus hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  5. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  6. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.