President Donald Trump told thousands of supporters on Saturday night that high rates of testing for the coronavirus in the U.S. explain why the country has the highest number of cases in the world.
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please,’ ” Trump said at the rally, held in Tulsa, Okla.
Those comments, said Peter Navarro, were “tongue in cheek” and “a lighthearted moment for [Trump].”
“I don’t know if it was [tongue in cheek],” responded CNN’s Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning. Responded Navarro, the White House trade adviser: “Thirty million people are unemployed, and we’ve seen over 100,000 people die because of the China, Wuhan virus,” Navarro said, using terms for the virus popular among some Trump backers. “Let’s talk about some serious issues, Jake.”
“I think testing is a very serious issue,” said Tapper. “I’m not the one making jokes about it.”
The U.S. has tested more than 26 million people as of June 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 10% of those tests, or 2.6 million, resulting in confirmed positives for the presence of the coronavirus.
When Navarro was asked about Trump supporters at the rally disregarding the CDC’s advice for social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and wearing face coverings in public — a lawsuit seeking to force compliance at the Tulsa rally was rejected Friday by the state supreme court — Navarro replied that “this is not my lane.”
“I’m the trade adviser,” said Navarro, who reportedly wrote White House memos as early as January forecasting grave potential coronavirus effects, adding that he is helping prepare for a predicted second wave of the coronavirus in the fall by “filling the stockpiles.”
“We’re a lot more prepared under this president than we were when China hoisted this on us to begin with,” Navarro said. “Let’s not forget that China created this pandemic. They hid the virus, they created that virus, and they sent over hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens here to spread out around, and around the world.”
Navarro’s comments echoed Trump. A day earlier, in Tulsa, the president said that said “China sent us the plague,” going on to use a term widely considered racist for the virus , which, further, incorrectly calls it a flu.
Before the rally Saturday night, six campaign staffers tested positive for the coronavirus and are reportedly quarantining in Tulsa.