Trump trade adviser: Rally comment on reducing Covid testing was just a joke

Matthew Choi

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that President Donald Trump was only joking when he said he asked his administration to slow down coronavirus testing for the sake of optics.

Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,“ Navarro repeatedly said, "Come on now, Jake. You know it was tongue in cheek. Come on now. That was tongue in cheek," cutting off Tapper as he repeatedly asked about the president's remarks.

"I don't know that it was tongue in cheek at all," Tapper retorted.

"That's news for you, tongue in cheek," Navarro said with a dismissive laugh.

Trump said during a comeback rally Saturday night that he had told officials to lower the number of coronavirus tests to temper the rising infection rate in the country. The U.S. has surged to the country with the most infections in the world.

"When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people," Trump said during his rally in Tulsa, Okla. "You're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please."

Trump has made similar remarks in the past, but never as explicitly and from as large a platform as on Saturday night. The White House has since said multiple times that the president was joking.

"Come on. It was a light moment," Navarro said.

There have been more than 2 million cases of coronavirus diagnosed in the United States, causing more than 120,000 deaths.