“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

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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:

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate