White House trade adviser Peter Navarro spun President Donald Trump’s stunning admission that he wanted his administration to slow down coronavirus testing, saying on Sunday morning that the president’s comments were clearly “tongue in cheek” and a light moment.
During Saturday night’s sparsely attended campaign rally in Tulsa, the president complained that his administration was looking bad because robust testing had picked up too many COVID-19 cases, calling it a “double-edged sword.”
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump bellowed. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test.”
Shortly after Saturday’s rally, which also included Trump using the racist term “Kung Flu” to describe the virus, an administration official told CNN that the president was “obviously kidding” when he made the comment. Navarro, meanwhile, doubled down on the White House’s position during an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper.
“Come on now, Jake. You know it was tongue in cheek,” Navarro immediately exclaimed after Tapper played a clip of Trump’s comments. “Come on now. That was tongue in cheek, please.”
Tapper shot back, noting that he doesn’t know that the president was joking since he has said similar things over the past several months. After the Trump aide attempted to deflect by saying he’d rather talk about a “serious issue,” the CNN anchor explained that “testing is a very serious issue.”
“I’m not the one making jokes about it,” Tapper added. “You’re the one that said the president was being tongue in cheek.”
Navarro once again tried to wave off the State of the Union host, insisting it was a “light moment” before trying to pivot to former national security adviser John Bolton’s book. Tapper, suggesting that a “deadly pandemic” that’s killed 120,000 Americans isn’t a joking matter.
Moments later, the interview heated up once again when Navarro claimed that China “created that virus,” despite there still being zero evidence that the novel coronavirus was fabricated in a Chinese lab.
“I just want to ask you about something you said,” Tapper pressed. “Did I just hear you say China created this virus?”
“You did not hear me wrong,” Navarro declared. “That virus was a product of the Chinese communist party. And until we get some information about what happened in those labs what, happened in that wet market, we know that that virus was spawned in China. That is what I mean. Spawned in China.”
Tapper interjected, asking Navarro whether he believes it was “purposely created,” prompting the Trump adviser to say that it is “an open question” while claiming he “predicted” more than a decade ago that China would “create a viral pandemic” to hurt America.
“Guilty until proven innocent,” he continued. “That’s an open question. Roll the tape back. What I said is that virus came out of China. The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for it.”