“I Don’t Kid” Trump Says After Multiple Aides Insist He Was Kidding

The president makes his antipathy for coronavirus testing clear.

Stefani Reynolds/ZUMA

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Was Donald Trump joking when he confessed to commanding officials to “slow down” coronavirus testing? That’s what his aides have claimed again and again to explain Saturday’s rally-time confession. It was just in jest! A “light moment” offered just as the number of victims ticked over a grim threshold: 120,000 US deaths. But that spin campaign spun to a grinding halt on Tuesday, thwarted by the president himself.

“I don’t kid,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday when asked about his desire to scale back testing, which if true, would come as nearly half the country is seeing new cases from the virus spike. He then proceeded to argue that increased testing capabilities—a critical part of fighting the pandemic—makes the country “look bad.”

It was the latest signal by Trump that he views his administration’s response purely in terms of perception and optics after he told supporters at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday about ordering officials to slow down the country’s COVID-19 testing. The White House, along with Vice President Mike Pence, has since claimed that the remark was nothing more than a joke, but the president has now undermined those cascading defenses on multiple occasions, including on Twitter and in an exchange with a reporter on Monday:

If this feels familiar, that’s because it is. As I wrote yesterday, Trump has openly and repeatedly questioned the need to test long before the Tulsa rally. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship,” he said in March, making his preference to keep a coronavirus-hit cruise ship away in order to keep the country’s infection numbers down. 

“Any suggestion that testing has been curtailed is not rooted in fact,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday. “It was a comment that he made in jest.” 

For a look back at Trump’s first 100 days of deadly coronavirus denial to compare his recent statements, take a look at our detailed timeline, or watch our video below:

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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