Washington (AFP) - Former US president Donald Trump expressed support for getting vaccinated against Covid-19 but said it should be up to individuals, in an NPR interview aired Wednesday that he cut short after again falsely claiming election fraud.
In a rare alignment with President Joe Biden, Trump said he does "recommend taking" vaccines. But the Republican former leader, whose administration oversaw development of the coronavirus vaccines, said he opposed mandating them for Americans.
"The mandate is really hurting our country," Trump told National Public Radio, adding that "a lot of Americans aren't standing for it."
Getting vaccinated "has to be an individual choice," he said, "but I recommend taking them."
The US Supreme Court is currently considering two Biden rules: a Covid vaccination-or-testing mandate for larger businesses, and an administration requirement that healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding get their shots.
The United States has recorded more coronavirus deaths than any other country, and the latest highly infectious Omicron strain is running rampant, sending infections skyrocketing and pushing hospitals to their limits.
The telephone interview was a rare appearance by Trump on mainstream media, which he largely shunned during his presidency, preferring the relative safety of right-leaning outlets.
When NPR reporter Steve Inskeep pressed Trump on his debunked theory that he lost the 2020 election due to fraud, the billionaire insisted he -- and not the many judges and some Republican lawmakers who rejected his claims -- was right.
"You know the real truth, Steve. This election was a rigged election," Trump said, citing without evidence the conditions in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where he said major election fraud occurred.
"Go into Detroit and just ask yourself: is it true that there are more votes than there are voters?" Trump said.
"It is not true," Inskeep pushed back.
But Trump was undeterred, saying it was "an advantage" to keep discussing 2020 because voters remained concerned about potential mischief in this year's midterms and in the 2024 presidential election.
"The only way it's not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020," Trump said before hanging up.