Numerous times over the past several years, Donald Trump has tried to clean up particularly dangerous or offensive comments by claiming that he was just being sarcastic.
It happened after he called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS” and when he publicly thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats. More recently, he dismissed his suggestion that disinfectant could be injected into the body to treat COVID-19 as sarcasm.
So when his advisers started to defend his latest comments about deliberately slowing down coronavirus testing in order to make the national numbers look better by claiming that he was just joking, it made a perverse kind of sense. That is until Trump threw them under the bus.
According to White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s remarks about testing as a “double-edged sword” at his Tulsa rally were “tongue in cheek.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the comment was “made in jest.” This prompted CNN anchor Brianna Keilar to ask a spokesperson for the Trump campaign if he thought 120,000 dead Americans was “funny.”
Then, on Tuesday, CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang finally asked Trump directly, “When you said you asked your people to slow down testing, were you just kidding, or do you have a plan to slow down testing?”
“I don’t kid,” Trump replied, before boasting about his administration’s response to the crisis. “By having more tests, we find more cases.” The president then repeated, without any hint of comedy, his assertion that “testing is a double-edged sword.”
“In one way, it tells you that you have cases,” he said. “In another way, you find out where the cases are and you do a good job. We are doing a great job and we’ve never been credited for it. We’re doing the best testing job anywhere in the world.”
As of this week, the United States now accounts for 20 percent of all new COVID-19 infections worldwide despite making up just over 4 percent of the global population, a discrepancy that cannot be explained away by increased testing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, seemed to contradict Trump when he testified to Congress on Tuesday that “none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” adding, “In fact, we will be doing more testing.”