White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied Monday that President Trump had ordered a slowdown in coronavirus testing after he quipped over the weekend, “I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”
McEnany said the president’s remarks at his Tulsa rally about coronavirus testing was “a comment that he made in jest, a comment that he made in passing.”
During that rally, Trump, while touting his administration’s “phenomenal” job responding to the coronavirus crisis, lamented that as the nation has increased the availability of coronavirus tests, a higher gross number of tests are coming back positive.
“You know, testing is a double-edged sword. We’ve tested now 25 million people,” Trump said at the rally. “Here’s the bad part. When you test when you do testing, to that extent, you’re going to find more people. You’re gonna find more cases.
“So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please,” Trump continued. “They test and they test. We had tests that people don’t know what’s going on. … We got another one over here. The young man’s 10 years old. He’s got the sniffles. He’ll recover in about 15 minutes. That’s a case.”
The remark was one of a number of comments from the president’s appearance in Tulsa that sparked backlash, though aides have suggested he was joking.
Asked if the president directed his team to slow down testing, the press secretary said: “No, he has not directed that, and in fact I would note that we continue to test about 500,00 per day.”
“Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact,” she added.
McEnany reckoned that the president was trying to expose the media for ignoring the fact that “the U.S. has more cases because we have more testing. We are leading the world in testing.”
Trump addressed testing again on Monday, writing on Twitter: “Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally than other countries. My message on that is very clear!”
White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro told CNN on Sunday the president’s comments were “tongue in cheek.”
“I can’t believe I have to say this, but we should be speeding up testing — not slowing it down,” presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a tweet Sunday that included a campaign ad criticizing Trump for the comments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also issued a statement Sunday on the president’s comments, decrying that Trump “orders his Administration to slow down the testing that saves lives.”
McEnany faced another round of questioning at her Monday press conference over the president’s reference to COVID-19 as the “Kung Flu.” When asked if the president regrets using “racist” terminology to reference the virus, McEnany said Trump “never regrets” tying COVID-19 back to China as the communist nation tries to “ridiculously rewrite history.”
“It is an indictment of China for letting this virus get here,” said McEnany, adding that the president prizes Asian Americans and the term is not meant to be offensive toward them.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.