“I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear,” the president told reporters before insisting the U.S. had the greatest testing program of anywhere.
In a separate interview with religious-oriented news website CBN.com published Tuesday, Trump said the comment about cutting back on testing was “semi tongue-in-cheek.”
“I say it all the time,” he said. “I know some people thought it was tongue-in-cheek.”
He also repeated his claim that testing is “a double-edged sword.” When CBN News pressed him on whether he had ordered a testing shutdown, the president said, “No. But I think we put ourselves at a disadvantage.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
At a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night, Trump told the crowd that he had told his “people” to “slow the testing down, please,” because more tests would mean more cases of the coronavirus.
About 120,000 people in the U.S. have died due to COVID-19, and Trump’s remarks came under fire from politicians and public health experts.
Trump allies, including White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh, subsequently attempted to do damage control, saying the president’s comment about testing was “tongue-in-cheek,” “made in jest” and “ironic humor.”
On Monday, the president avoided answering a question about whether he had ordered a testing shutdown. But he suggested, once again, that less testing for COVID-19 would mean fewer cases.
“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,” Trump said. “Because every time we go up, with 25 million tests, you’re gonna find more people — so then they say, ‘Oh, you have more cases in the United States.’”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, reportedly told a House committee on Tuesday that he was unaware of any orders to slow down testing and said there would be more testing in the future.
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