‘I Don’t Kid’: Trump Contradicts Staff, Says He Wasn’t Joking About Asking To Slow Down Testing

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump says he wasn’t kidding when he stated Saturday night that he had ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing to prevent cases from rising, he told reporters Tuesday.

Trump made the initial comment at his Oklahoma rally Saturday night, arguing that the higher case numbers from increasing test rates was making the U.S. look bad. White House Trade and Manufacturing Adviser Peter Navarro earlier claimed Trump’s statement was “tongue-in-cheek.” Trump now says it was not.

“I don’t kid,” Trump said Tuesday before boarding Marine One on the White House lawn. “Let me just tell you, let me make it clear. We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world. And we have the most of them.”

“You know, testing is a double-edged sword. Here’s the bad part … 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 on Saturday night.

Navarro attempted to explain the comment away in a Sunday appearance on CNN, saying “Come on now, that was tongue-in-cheek. That was a light moment for him at a rally.”

Trump’s comments come as nearly half of U.S. states are seeing an increase in positive test results over the weekend as testing also increases. (RELATED: Oklahoma Health Official Worried About Trump Rally During COVID-19 Pandemic)

A lack of testing was among the central criticisms from the media and Democrats of Trump’s early handling of the pandemic. The White House argued the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) testing roll out had been hampered by an Obama-era regulation which it then removed.

The U.S. has for weeks led the world in the number of tests it is administering, but had lagged far behind in the opening weeks of the outbreak.

Aside from Navarro, other members of the administration explained Trump’s comment differently. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said Trump made the comment out of frustration with the media.

“What you heard from the President was frustration — frustration in the sense of that we are testing, I believe we’ve tested over 25 million Americans. We’ve tested more than any other country in this world,” Wolf told CBS on Sunday. “Instead, the press and others, all they want to focus on is an increasing case count.”