During his speech at a campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday, President Donald Trump told the crowd that he had ordered his staff to slow down the amount of coronavirus testing — sparking a fierce backlash from those who have long criticized his handling of the pandemic as inept, if not outright corrupt. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the comment during a press briefing on Monday, saying that Trump was speaking “in jest.” But Trump’s critics have their doubts, fearing that the president really does want to cut back on testing for COVID-19.
McEnany told reporters that Trump was “not joking about coronavirus” but rather, was poking fun at the press while speaking “in jest.”
Kayleigh McEnany ties herself into knots to defend Trump’s comments about slowing down coronavirus testing pic.twitter.com/1TLxFOMXaf
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 22, 2020
However, CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe reported on Twitter that when Vice President Mike Pence was speaking to governors during a conference call on Monday, he told them that Trump’s “comments at an Oklahoma campaign rally about slowing down testing for #Coronavirus were just ‘a passing observation’ and not meant in jest.”
O’Keefe tweeted, “Pence also said that the Trump administration remains focused on rising cases in nine states, with the situation stable in the other 41 and that medical officials are seeing a growing trend of more people under age 45 testing positive for coronavirus.”
The Washington Post’s Tony Romm, in response to O’Keefe’s tweets, wrote, “Well the WH press secretary just said it was meant in jest, so now i’m confused, but i guess i always was.”
well the WH press secretary just said it was meant in jest, so now i’m confused, but i guess i always was. https://t.co/L6H4Y78pOF
— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) June 22, 2020
President Trump’s comments at an Oklahoma campaign rally about slowing down testing for #Coronavirus were just “a passing observation” and not meant in jest, @VP Pence told governors on Monday, multiple people on the call tell @cbsnews.
— Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) June 22, 2020
MORE: Pence also said that the Trump administration remains focused on rising cases in nine states, with the situation stable in the other 41 and that medical officials are seeing a growing trend of more people under age 45 testing positive for coronavirus.
— Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) June 22, 2020
Scripps reporter Joe St. George tweeted an interview with Trump in which he asked the president to clarify whether he believes the U.S. should have more or less testing for coronavirus. And Trump never gave him a straight answer.
Noting that Trump, at the Tulsa event, said he asked his staff to “slow the testing down to improve the numbers,” St. George asked the president if someone who wanted a test wouldn’t be able to get one. Trump replied, “We do more testing than any country in the world by far.” And when St. George asked Trump a second time if he asked his staff to “slow down” the amount of coronavirus testing, Trump responded, “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.”
VIDEO: Just asked President Trump if he actually ordered testing to be slowed down. He said in his Saturday speech he did. He didn’t answer the direct question. pic.twitter.com/aDKGu6F2Ok
— Joe St. George (@JoeStGeorge) June 22, 2020
Twitter users noted how evasive Trump’s response was:
He said he didn’t want the cruise ship to let the sick passengers off the ship here because “his numbers would double”
You know he told them to slow testing. Of course he did. He only cares about his bottom line, numbers. Not people.
— 🌊🇺🇸Sandra🇵🇷🏳️🌈 😷 (@wolfie_tx) June 22, 2020
HOW WOULD YOU EVER BE ABLE TO DO “TOO GOOD A JOB!????”
— Tino Soelberg (@tinosoelberg) June 22, 2020
If we had only done those tests in February, March & April we wouldn’t find ourselves in this situation today. pic.twitter.com/YfDf9LOlXB
— Mo Latno Bill Phelan (@MoBill) June 22, 2020
MY GOD THIS IS MADDENING. He is saying it’s not fair and makes him look bad that we test people for a pandemic when testing will save people’s lives. He is admitting that is is prioritizing making him LOOK good to saving American lives.
— CJ Belleville (@THECJBelleville) June 22, 2020
THAT JUST SHOWS ME THAT HE DID ASK TO SLOW DOWN TESTING ….
— richard j lawrence (@quincy44361) June 22, 2020
Clearly trump asked to slow it down
— S Garz (@sgarz3) June 22, 2020
So he wasn’t joking and he’s responsible for even more deaths
— RayWoodson2.0 (@RWoodson20) June 22, 2020