Top Trump administration and campaign officials on Sunday tried to downplay President Donald Trump’s remark at Saturday campaign rally about coronavirus testing as well as the lower-than-expected crowd turnout.
At the Tulsa event, where thousands of seats remained empty despite expectations of overcrowding, Trump called coronavirus testing “a double-edged sword” and claimed he told advisers to “slow the testing down, please.”
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please,'” Trump said, joking that so many tests are being conducted “that people don’t even know what’s going on.”
“We got another one over here,” he said, pointing into the crowd. “The young man is 10 years old. He’s got the sniffles. He’ll recover in about 15 minutes. That’s a case!”
Trump’s remark, which echoed previous erroneous claims he’s made about testing, came under fire soon after. A senior White House official told NBC News that Trump “was clearly speaking in jest to call out the media’s absurd coverage” of the pandemic.
Speaking with CNN’s “State of the Union,” top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Trump’s comment “was tongue in cheek.”
“Come on now. Come on now. That was tongue in cheek, please,” Navarro said. “I know it was tongue in cheek. That’s news for you, tongue in cheek.”