Joe Biden’s campaign described as “outrageous” President Trump’s comments during an Oklahoma political rally that the White House should slow down the amount of coronavirus testing to reduce the number of cases.
“Trump just admitted that he’s putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people — even as we just recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost two months and 20 million workers remain out of work,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement issued late Saturday.
She said the president’s remarks would linger “long after tonight’s debacle of a rally.”
“This virus has killed nearly 120,000 Americans and cost tens of millions their jobs, in large part because this president could not and would not mobilize testing as quickly as we needed it. To hear him say tonight that he has ordered testing slowed — a transparent attempt to make the numbers look better — is appalling,” she added.
About an hour before Bedingfield released the statement, Biden tweeted his response.
“Speed up the testing,” the former vice president wrote.
Speaking at a rally in Tulsa – his first since March – Trump said coronavirus testing is a “double-edged sword” because it increases the total number of cases.
“We have tested now 25 million people. It is probably 20 million people more than anybody else,” he told the crowd. “Here’s the bad part. When you test to that extent, you are going to find more people, find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’ They test and they test.”
A White House official later said Trump was just joking.
Trump made the remark at the 19,000-set BOK Center in Tulsa during a reboot of his re-election campaign.
But the rally didn’t attract the crowds the campaign had anticipated and much of the arena’s upper tier remained empty.
The Trump campaign also canceled an appearance at an outdoor stage when crowds failed to show up.
Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh blamed the modest crowd on the ongoing nationwide protests and the media.
“Sadly, protesters interfered with supporters, even blocking access to metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally,” he said.
“Radical protesters coupled with relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters,” he added. “We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out.”