President Donald Trump has falsely claimed four times since last week that he inherited a faulty coronavirus test – which was, in reality, developed this year.
In March, Trump initially made a debatable claim that he had inherited a flawed testing “system.” By the final days of March and the first days of April, however, he was making a demonstrably inaccurate claim about inheriting the actual tests.
- “We inherited a broken test – the whole thing was broken,” Trump said on the Fox News morning show “Fox and Friends” on March 30.
- “And remember this: We inherited – the word is we inherited bad tests. We really inherited bad tests. These are horrible tests. And it was broken. It was all broken. And we fixed it,” Trump said at the White House briefing on April 1.
- “The original test – the ones we inherited, Jim, as an example, they were – they were broken. They were obsolete. They were not good tests. And that’s what we got stuck with,” he said at the April 3 briefing.
- “Initially speaking, the tests were old, obsolete, and not really prepared,” he said at the April 6 briefing.
Trump’s clear suggestion was that the flawed test had been left to him by President Barack Obama’s administration.
Facts First: The faulty initial test for the coronavirus was created during Trump’s administration, in early 2020, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since this is a new virus that was first identified this year, the tests couldn’t possibly be “old” or “obsolete.”
“He is lying. He is lying 100%. He is lying because he is trying to shift blame to others, even if the attempt is totally nonsensical,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.
The claim “doesn’t make sense because it is false,” said Tara Smith, an epidemiology professor at Kent State University. “This a new virus.”
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, called the claim “absurd” given that “this virus did not exist in the prior administration.”
Mina added: “The technology used to test for this virus is technology that is routinely used in clinical microbiology laboratories. It is not faulty.”
A flawed CDC test – in 2020
Sticking to past practice, the CDC created its own test for the coronavirus rather than use the test being distributed by the World Health Organization. The CDC began developing its test in January 2020 and announced on February 5 that it would begin shipping test kits to public health labs around the US.
Soon after that, there were reports that some of the test kits were not working properly. The CDC – which has been led since 2018 by Dr. Robert Redfield, a Trump administration appointee – admitted the problem on February 12. It announced on February 28 that it had manufactured brand new, functional test kits that addressed the problem, which had been caused by a flaw in one of the three components of the original test.
Trump’s claims about the test offer another example of how his rhetoric sometimes evolves over time to become more dishonest.
Trump has had three years in office to fix any problems with the system, and his argument that the system was “broken” has been disputed. (Obama-era CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told USA Today that the Trump administration “inherited the system that has worked in every prior emergency.”) Regardless, this is a subjective matter of opinion.
On March 30, Trump shifted to the false claim about the tests themselves.