Peter Navarro asserted Sunday that Donald Trump was being ‘tongue-in-cheek’ when he claimed during his rally that he told his administration to cut down on coronavirus testing so U.S. numbers would artificially be decreased.
During an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Navarro about the moment the president said during his rally Saturday night: ‘I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’
‘C’mon now, Jake, that was tongue-in-cheek,’ the White House trade adviser repeatedly told Tapper.
‘I don’t know that it was tongue-in-cheek at all,’ the host pushed back. ‘He has said similar things for months.’
Navarro, who claimed talking about coronavirus is ‘not in my lane,’ insisted that Tapper instead ask him about ‘serious issues.’
‘I think testing is a very serious issue. I’m not the one making jokes about it,’ Tapper asserted.
‘Come on. It was a light moment,’ Navarro shot back.
White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro claimed Sunday morning that Donald Trump was being ‘tongue-in-cheek’ when he claimed he told his people to ‘slow down’ testing to artificially lower U.S. coronavirus numbers
‘I don’t know that it was tongue-in-cheek at all,’ Tapper pushed back. ‘I think testing is a very serious issue. I’m not the one making jokes about it,’ he said when Navarro said it was a ‘light’ moment
Trump told a cheering crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma during his comeback rally Saturday night that he directed his administration to slow down testing for coronavirus.
He claimed the success in testing capabilities and availability is a ‘double-edged sword’ that has led to more cases being discovered than any other country is reporting.
During the rally, Trump said the U.S. has now tested 25 million people – far more than other countries.
The ‘bad part,’ Trump said, is that widespread testing leads to logging more cases of the virus.
‘When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people you’re gonna find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down, please,’ the president said.
A White House official later told reporters that Trump was just joking and made the comment in jest.
‘He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million + in testing,’ the official said.
When asked about the moment, Navarro dismissed that the president was being serious.
Tapper countered: ‘I’m not sure that a deadly pandemic, where almost 120,000 Americans died, is really a good subject for a ‘light moment.”
But Navarro asserted the president is taking those deaths ‘absolutely seriously.’
Trump also ignited outrage by calling COVID-19 the ‘kung flu’, a racist term referencing its origins in China.
President Trump on Saturday told supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he ordered his administration to slow down the pace of coronavirus testing
So far, more than 119,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and more than 2.1 million have been infected. The image above shows Kim Desmond (left) getting swabbed for coronavirus at a testing site in Denver on Saturday
Trump opted to hold his first rally in 110 days despite concerns from local health officials that it could lead to further spread of the virus in Tulsa.
Most of those in attendance declined to wear a mask.
The number of newly confirmed cases per day has risen from about 21,400 two weeks ago to 23,200, according to an Associated Press analysis.
And in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arizona – states that loosened their stay-at-home restrictions early – daily deaths have been quietly rising since early June.
When announcing his Tulsa rally, Trump also previewed that he would be hosting more rallies soon in swing states of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
Rising case numbers in the U.S. can partially be explained by the wider availability of testing – especially compared to other countries. Mild cases, previously undetected because of limits on who could be tested, are now showing up in the numbers.
The campaign of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, released a statement on Saturday blasting the president for saying his administration slowed testing.
‘In an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle of a rally, President Trump just admitted that he’s putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people – even as we just recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost two months and 20 million workers remain out of work,’ campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said.
Trump sparked outrage on social media when he referred to coronavirus as ‘kung flu’
‘Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement of our nation’s response to the worst public health crisis in over 100 years began with ignoring countless warnings from his own officials and selling us out to the Chinese government for a hollow trade deal — and that mismanagement continues to this day as he continues to put his own political interests first while many states see spikes in deadly infections.’
She added: ‘To hear him say tonight that he has ordered testing slowed – a transparent attempt to make the numbers look better – is appalling.’
Trump’s ‘kung flu’ reference was also not well received as dozens of people voiced their disgust on social media.
‘It has more names than any disease in history,’ the president told thousands of his supporters inside the BOK Center on Saturday.
‘I can name kung flu. I can name 19 different versions of names.’
The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has been referred to by the president as the ‘Wuhan virus’ or the ‘Chinese virus’.
Linking the virus, which has caused a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 119,000 Americans, to China has led to an uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans in recent months.
The president has defended his handling of the pandemic, though his administration has been blamed for its response to the virus that has so far infected more than 2 million Americans.
In March, the president denied that using the term ‘Wuhan virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’ was racist.
It’s ‘not racist at all,’ Trump told reporters in March.
‘It comes from China. I want to be accurate.’
The reaction to Trump’s comments on Saturday was fierce, as Twitter users assailed the president for using racist language.
Jennifer Taub tweeted: ‘Trump is a racist pig. He just called Covid-19 ‘Kung Flu’.’
An organization called Republican Voters Against Trump tweeted: ‘Enough of this racist bile. Enough.’
Peter Rosenberg tweeted: ‘Yo this man just said ‘Kung Flu’ to describe Coronavirus … he is unhinged because this rally is empty.’
Rabia O’Chaudry tweeted: ‘He just said Kung Flu. He’s so effing disgusting.’
Santiago Mayer tweeted: ‘Everytime the President calls it ‘Kung Flu’ he is belittling the nearly 120,000 Americans who have died of Coronavirus.
‘What he is doing is not only not Presidential, but it lacks basic human decency and humility.
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘Not Kung Flu…we HAVE to get 45 out.’
On March 17, Weijia Jiang, a White House correspondent for CBS News, reported that a White House official referred to coronavirus as ‘kung flu’ right to her face.
‘This morning a White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face,’ Jiang tweeted.
‘Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back.’
The next day, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide, said reports that a White House official used the term ‘kung flu’ were ‘highly offensive.’
‘I’d like to know who they are,’ Conway said when asked to comment about the remark.
‘But hold on, you can’t just say that and not name them. Tell us who it was.
‘Come up here and tell us who it was.’
Conway declined to condemn the White House official, though she said ‘of course it’s wrong.’
CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang reported in March that a White House official referred to coronavirus as ‘kung flu’ to her face
‘But you can’t just make an accusation and not tell us who it is,’ Conway said.
She then turned to Jiang and asked: ‘Who is it?’
Jiang replied: ‘I think you understand how these conversations go. I am also a journalist.’
‘I don’t know how these conversations go and that’s highly offensive,’ Conway replied.
‘So, you should tell us all who it is. I’d like to know who it is.’
Conway continued: ‘I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I’m married to an Asian.’
‘I mean, I’m not engaging in hypotheticals,’ she said.
‘I’m married to an Asian … my kids are partly – I’m married to an Asian American, my kids are 25 percent Filipino.’
Conway’s husband is George Conway, a conservative lawyer who has gained a massive Twitter following after emerging as one of Trump’s fiercest critics.
George Conway is half Filipino.