Vice President Mike Pence told a Wisconsin media outlet Tuesday that President Trump has not directed him to slow the rate of coronavirus testing despite Trump making remarks to the contrary at a weekend rally in Oklahoma and insisting the comments were not a joke.
WTMJ reporter Charles Benson asked Pence point-blank if Trump had "asked you to slow down the testing process?"
"Oh, no," answered Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force. "The president's made it clear from very early on that we were to forge a seemless partnership with governors around the country."
On Saturday, Trump told his audience in Tulsa that the number of coronavirus cases were rising in parts of the U.S. because his administration had tested so many people.
"Here's the bad part," Trump said. "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.'"
Pence previously said described the comments as a "passing observation," according to CBS News. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed Monday that Trump made that comment "in jest."
When Trump was asked about the comments Tuesday, he said: "I don't kid."
"What he was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said, 'I don’t kid.' He was noting he was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally," McEnany told reporters on Tuesday. "And the serious point he was making is that when you test more people, you identify more cases.
"But that shouldn’t be — the cases should not be indicative of the progress we’ve made," the press secretary added. "What’s indicative of the progress we’ve made is the fact that, per capita, we have fewer fatalities than Europe by a large margin. So that’s the point he was making on testing."