White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said President Trump was joking when he said he asked officials to “slow down” coronavirus testing.
Navarro was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday to react to the president’s comments during his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Come on now, Jake. You know it was tongue-in-cheek,” Navarro said. “Come on now. That was tongue-in-cheek, please.”
Tapper said he did not “know that it was tongue-in-cheek at all.” He claimed Trump has “said similar things for months.”
Navarro said it was a “light moment,” adding, “Over 30 million people unemployed, and we’ve seen over 100,000 people die because of the China Wuhan virus. Let’s talk about some serious issues, Jake. I don’t want to go there. I think there’s some really important things.”
During the rally Saturday evening, Trump’s first in-person campaign event in months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the president touched on a wide variety of topics, including media scrutiny of his slow walk down the ramp at West Point’s graduation ceremony. Coronavirus testing also came up.
“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 said Saturday night.
Trump held the rally despite warnings by local health officials that it could help spread the virus. Most people in attendance appeared to not be wearing masks or abiding by social distancing guidelines.
More than 2 million people in the United States have been infected by the virus, and at least 119,000 COVID-19 patients have died.
Tapper pushed Navarro to answer questions about Trump’s remarks about coronavirus, but Navarro refused.
“You know this is not my lane. I’m the trade adviser. I’m the jobs czar — I’m helping the greatest president in history. Ask me an example of what’s going to happen on Thursday. We’re going to Marinette, Wisconsin, to celebrate an award for 10 ships that will employ thousands of people in the state of Wisconsin in good high-paying jobs,” Navarro said. “At the same time, we’ll create new state-of-the-art frigates to defend this nation. Economic security, job security. That’s what I do. It’s not my lane.”