Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leaders of the White House coronavirus task force, said members were never told to slow down testing.
“None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. … In fact, we will be doing more testing,” Fauci said during his testimony in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.
The commentary from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which was supported by HHS testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir who was also testifying, is the latest statement regarding President Trump’s weekend quip in which he said he instructed White House officials to slow down coronavirus testing because of the high volume of positive cases.
The president then appeared to double down on the claims while addressing reporters ahead of Fauci’s appearance at the hearing before leaving for Arizona.
“I don’t kid,” Trump replied when CBS News’s Weijia Jiang asked him about saying he directed “my people” to “slow the testing down.”
“They test and they test. We got tests for people who don’t know what’s going on,” he said during his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.
Despite the president’s implicit confirmation, members of his administration have sought to paint the comment as a joke that was “made in jest.”
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called the quip “a comment that he made in jest, a comment that he made in passing,” during Monday’s briefing.
“Come on now, Jake. You know it was tongue-in-cheek,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said in a Sunday morning interview on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. “Come on now. That was tongue-in-cheek, please.”