On two occasions during Sunday’s coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump falsely denied he had said words he had said publicly last week.
When PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor noted that the President had said he did not believe that governors actually need all the equipment they claimed they did, Trump said, “I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that on Fox News on Thursday.
Later, when CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond noted that Trump had said he wanted governors to be “appreciative” of him, and that “if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said, “But I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that at the Friday briefing.
Here’s a closer look.
What Trump said about governors and equipment
Trump falsely denied that he claimed governors from certain states are asking for equipment they don’t need. At Sunday’s briefing, Alcindor, Newshour’s White House Correspondent, asked the President whether he felt his comments and belief “that some of the equipment that governors are requesting they don’t actually need” would have an impact on the federal distribution of ventilators and other medical resources. As Alcindor attempted to finish her question, the President interjected, “I didn’t say that,” before going on to say it wouldn’t have an impact.
Facts First: He did say that. On March 26 during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, Trump said, “a lot of equipment’s being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need” specifically in reference to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and following a tirade against Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Trump later said he felt Cuomo was requesting an unnecessary number of ventilators. “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they are going to be,” Trump said. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”
When Alcindor noted that she was quoting from the President’s interview with Hannity, Trump said: “Take a look at my interview. What I want to do is if there is something wrong, we have to get to the bottom of it.”
What Trump said about his dealings with governors
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond began a question to Trump as follows: “I’d also like to ask you about some comments you made on Friday. You were talking about governors of different states and you said, ‘I want them to be appreciative.’ You also said, ‘if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’” After Diamond said the words “if they don’t treat you right,” Trump said, “But I didn’t say that.” When Diamond finished the sentence, Trump said “I didn’t say that” once more.
Facts First: Trump did say what he claimed he didn’t. As Diamond told Trump, Diamond was reading direct quotes from Trump’s Friday briefing. Trump went on to argue Sunday that he was being taken out of context, noting that on Friday he had also said of his “I want them to be appreciative” comment, that he was talking about people other than himself.
Trump had said Friday: “I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about Mike Pence, the task force; I’m talking about FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers.” Trump is within his rights to urge media outlets to play the full clip, but those additional comments do not change the fact that he had said exactly what Diamond said he did.
Trump also said Sunday: “I don’t call the governor of Washington now, but Mike Pence calls, and the head of FEMA calls; I don’t stop them. Did I ever ask you to do anything negative, Mike, to Washington?” We don’t know for sure what Trump might have told Pence in private, but Trump explicitly said Friday that he had indeed tried to get Pence not to call the governors of Washington and Michigan. Trump said Friday: “He calls all the governors. I tell him — I mean, I’m a different type of person — I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington. You’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan.’” When a reporter pressed Trump on Friday about whether he really doesn’t want Pence to call the governor of Washington, Trump confirmed — but said that Pence, a “different type of person,” will “call quietly anyway.”
Trump also repeated an exaggeration that he’s made in the past on a topic unrelated to the pandemic.
Trump said, “I’ll never forget the day when a general came and said, ‘Sir’ – my first week in office – ‘we have no ammunition.’ ” He repeated this claim later in the briefing without citing the general, claiming that the US had “no ammunition” before he had taken action.
Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. We don’t know what a general might have told him in private, but it’s not true that the US had “no ammunition” at the beginning of his presidency. Rather, according to the public comments of military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency. You can read a full fact check of Trump’s claims about munitions levels here.