Mark Meadows, a former Trump White House chief of staff, claims Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 26 last year ― just three days before his first contentious debate with then-Democratic rival Joe Biden.
A second test returned a negative result and Trump continued with his schedule, according to passages from Meadows’ upcoming book, “The Chief’s Chief,” which The Guardian published Wednesday. Trump announced a positive diagnosis a week later and was hospitalized for three days.
The former president dismissed the claims later Wednesday.
“The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News,” he said in a statement. “In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”
In his book, Meadows reportedly says he called Trump on Sept. 26 — when the then-president was traveling on Air Force One to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania — to tell him about his positive test result. Trump’s response “rhyme(d) with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me,’” according to Meadows.
A second test, apparently using a more accurate system, showed a negative result.
Meadows said he still “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive,” per The Guardian. “I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks but I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about – which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not.”
Trump debated Biden in Cleveland on Sept. 29. The positive-then-negative test results were not disclosed to organizers, per Meadows.
The then-president and first lady Melania Trump announced their COVID-19 diagnoses on Oct. 2. Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days, and his blood oxygen level reportedly plunged to dangerously low levels. The second presidential debate was canceled after Trump refused to take part in a virtual event.