SOTU 'tongue in cheek'_00004630.jpg
Navarro: Trump was being 'tongue in cheek' on testing
01:52 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro claimed Sunday that President Donald Trump was being “tongue in cheek” when Trump revealed at a campaign rally that he’s told officials in his administration to slow down coronavirus testing because of the rising number of cases in America. But Trump has questioned Covid-19 testing before.

Trump, while claiming the US has now tested some 25 million people, said in part: “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’ “

Trump made the shocking admission alongside a bunch of repeated false claims during his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night.

“Come on now. That was tongue in cheek,” Navarro told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday, adding later: “That was a light moment for him at a rally.” Tapper pushed back, saying, “I don’t know that it was tongue in cheek at all” and that Trump “has said similar things for months.”

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Sunday that Trump’s statement was very consistent with the White House’s policy in managing the virus, despite the administration’s claim that Trump made the comment in jest.

“This is incredibly frustrating for the millions of Americans who have gotten sick and have not been able to get tests,” Jha said on CNN’s “Inside Politics,” adding that “this is unfortunately not a joke.”

As recorded cases of coronavirus have risen, public health officials have emphasized that more testing will bring the numbers down and help the nation find a pathway out of the pandemic. Once there is widespread testing, health experts say infected people can be identified and isolated, and close contacts can quarantine themselves at home.

Here’s a look at some instances in which Trump has dismissed testing efforts.


March 6: After touring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Trump said that he would prefer that the passengers aboard the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship remain aboard because “I like the numbers being where they are.”

“I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” he said, referring to the number of coronavirus cases reported on land in the United States at the time.

He later added that he didn’t “even know if” he agreed with proactive testing efforts.

“You’ll find out those areas just by sitting back and waiting,” Trump said. “But they’re trying to find out before – before you would normally find out by waiting. And, you know, I think that’s great. But that’s what they’re doing.”


April 10: Trump asserted during a White House coronavirus press briefing that “you don’t need testing there, you know, where you have a state with a small number of cases, some states with almost none.”

“You don’t have to test every single person to say, let’s open up and let’s get the tractors moving, and let’s get the corn, and let’s open up,” he said. “All of the different things they do in that great state – you don’t need that.”


May 6: During a meeting with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Trump lamented what poor optics around the pandemic were a result of Covid-19 testing.

“If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases,” he said. “So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”

May 8: On “Fox and Friends,” Trump appeared to dismiss testing by describing how one of his valets tested positive for coronavirus.

“We have the best testing in the world but testing is not necessarily the answer,” he said. “Because they were testing them, they tested them four days before and now I guess everybody is being tested every day.”

May 14: During a trip to Pennsylvania that was meant to underscore a new White House effort to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile, Trump questioned the need for high-volume testing.

“When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases,” he said, adding later: “Could be that testing’s, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated.”


June 18: Trump appeared to double down on his views during an interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying that “testing is overrated.”

“Look, if we didn’t test all the cases that we’re reporting, you wouldn’t know about any of those cases,” he said. “In many ways, it makes us look bad. The fact that we’re so good at something makes us look bad.”

June 20: During his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump called testing “a double-edged sword” before claiming to have tried to limit testing efforts.

“Here’s the bad part … when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases,” he said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test. We have tests that people don’t know what’s going on.”

CNN’s Daniel Dale, Minali Nigam, Elizabeth Cohen and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.