In an expansion of what became a highly controversial comment at President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday, Trump explained in an interview airing Tuesday that he had been hyperbolically jesting about a COVID-19 testing “slowdown.”
In the exclusive on “Fox & Friends” with host Brian Kilmeade, Trump echoed many of his comments from Saturday’s performance but also denied that he had ordered slowing down coronavirus testing and lamented that higher case numbers and testing rates make America look bad “even though it should make us look good.”
TRUMP DEFENDS CORONAVIRUS TESTING COMMENT, SAYS MORE TESTS MAKE ‘US LOOK LIKE WE HAVE MORE CASES’
“You know, what we did is a miracle, between the ventilators and all of the things we did. But, we got so good at testing that we’ve done 25 million tests. We’ve done 20 or 21 million more than Germany and these other countries,” he stated on Monday. “If you do more tests, that means you’re going to have more cases. So, we’ve done so good that we’re showing we have a lot of cases.”
“And everyone’s saying that they have more cases. Well, we have more cases, because we have more testing,” Trump added. “So, they can test a kid who’s got sniffles and is going to be better in about two hours, because you know, the young kids have done unbelievably well.”
“Their immune system, I guess, or whatever is stronger,” the president noted. “So, when you do 25 million tests, you’re going to show you have cases. And by doing all of those tests, while it’s good to do them in one way, in another way, it makes us look bad. And it’s crazy.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the number of total tests reported hovering at just over 27 million with around 10 percent of those coming back positive. However, health experts argue that the increased number of COVID-19 cases has less to do with more testing and more to do with there being more cases.
Plus, although the U.S. may have conducted the most coronavirus tests compared to any other country, it has lagged behind in testing per capita.
According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, there are currently over 2.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States alone with now more than 120,000 American lives claimed.
In comparison, Germany has recorded just over 192,000 cases with almost 9,000 deaths reported.
While aides have told reporters that the president was just joking about scaling back testing, the comments led to harsh backlash.
“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 wrote in a tweet Sunday, which included a campaign ad criticizing Trump for the comments.
But Trump has mentioned in the past that the more people test positive for the coronavirus, the worse it makes the crisis look, despite the fact that experts have said a robust testing system is necessary for the nation to fully get back to normal in the wake of the pandemic. And his administration has been largely behind the push to quickly increase testing capacity in the U.S. as part of what Trump called a “phenomenal” response to the crisis.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany stated Monday afternoon that Trump had not, in fact, ordered a coronavirus testing slowdown and affirmed that his comment to the contrary in Tulsa had been made “in jest.”
“Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact,” McEnany said, claiming Trump was trying to expose the media for reporting increases in coronavirus cases without acknowledging an uptick in testing.
“It was a comment that he made in jest,” McEnany asserted.
“But you don’t mean — do you mean slow down testing?” Kilmeade asked Trump.
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“No, I don’t mean slow down, but if we did slow down or if we didn’t do so many — let’s say instead of 25 million tests, we did five million tests, we’d be very low in cases right now. And everybody would say, ‘Isn’t that wonderful?'” he replied.
“By doing so much and being so advanced, not only did we do a lot of testing, but we’re far more advanced than any other — we have the five-minute test. We have tests that they don’t even think of, other countries. You know, you hear about South Korea. They were always congratulating me on the great job I’ve done with testing. But the media — the fake news doesn’t get the word out,” he complained.
“So we’ve done 25 million tests. That means we show a lot of cases. And that’s all fine. But it makes us look bad, even though it should make us look good,” the president concluded.
Later Tuesday morning, the president took to Twitter, writing: “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
Fox News’ Tyler Olson and Casey Stegall contributed to this report.