President Trump early Monday morning defended his Saturday night comment about asking "my people" to ease back on coronavirus testing because an increase in testing leads to an increase in positive results.

Trump in a rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday night touted his administration's response to the coronavirus crisis. As he addressed what he called a "phenomenal" job by himself -- an assessment critics dispute -- the president lamented that as the nation has increased the availability of coronavirus tests, a higher gross number of tests are coming back positive.

While aides said he was joking about scaling back tests, the comments led to harsh backlash, which Trump addressed on Twitter Monday.

"Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries," Trump tweeted, apparently trying to underscore the serious message behind comments White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said were "tongue in cheek" on CNN Sunday.


Trump added: "My message on that is very clear!"

The president, as he made the apparently sarcastic comments Saturday, changed the tone of his voice and waved his arms around.

"You know, testing is a double-edged sword. We've tested now 25 million people," Trump said at the rally. "Here's the bad part. When you test when you do testing, to that extent, you're going to find more people. You're gonna find more cases.

"So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please," Trump continued. "They test and they test. We had tests that people don't know what's going on. ... We got another one over here. The young man's 10 years old. He's got the sniffles. He'll recover in about 15 minutes. That's a case."

The comments became their own story out of the whirlwind and controversial rally. Time, for example, ran a story headlined, "At Tulsa Rally, Trump Suggests U.S. Slow Down Coronavirus Testing to Avoid Bad Statistics."

But Trump has mentioned in the past that the more people test positive for the coronavirus, the worse it makes the crisis look, despite the fact that experts have said a robust testing system is necessary for the nation to fully get back to normal in the wake of the pandemic. And his administration has been largely behind the push to quickly increase testing capacity in the U.S. as part of what Trump called a "phenomenal" response to the crisis.

"I can't believe I have to say this, but we should be speeding up testing — not slowing it down," presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a tweet Sunday which included a campaign ad criticizing Trump for the comments.


"We need more tests. Now," the ad says as it fades to black.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also issued a statement Sunday on the president's comments, decrying that Trump "orders his Administration to slow down the testing that saves lives.

"The President’s efforts to slow down desperately needed testing to hide the true extent of the virus mean more Americans will lose their lives," she said.

Trump has apparently issued no such order. But the statements from Pelosi and Biden underscore how Democrats believe Trump's coronavirus response and off-the-cuff comments at rallies and other public appearances are a liability for this reelection campaign.

Trump made a number of other controversial comments in his Saturday rally, including calling the coronavirus the "Kung Flu." The president also said a law should be passed mandating a year in jail for anyone who burns the American flag.

President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


The Supreme Court has previously ruled that such a law would be an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment.

The mere holding of the indoor rally on Saturday caused coronavirus-related controversy as well. Oklahoma saw an uptick in coronavirus cases in the lead-up to the event, which was held in the indoor BOK Center, and the balance of the attendees appeared to not be social distancing or wearing masks, contrary to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

"Donald Trump is so eager to get back to his campaign rallies that he’s willing to put people at risk and violate CDC guidelines — as long as they sign a waiver promising not to hold his campaign liable,' Biden tweeted Saturday. "Unbelievable."

The BOK Center also asked the Trump campaign for a written plan on its coronavirus-limiting measures ahead of the event, which the campaign apparently did not provide.

"We take safety seriously, which is why we’re doing temperature checks for everyone attending, and providing masks and hand sanitizer," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.


But, he added: "This will be a Trump rally, which means a big, boisterous, excited crowd."

The crowd was certainly boisterous but did not come close to filling the BOK Center to its nearly 20,000-person capacity.

The Tulsa Fire Department said just under 6,200 scanned tickets were logged Saturday, a number that did not include Trump campaign staff or private suites that were booked for the rally. It was also evident that the upper levels of the BOK Center were largely empty.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale, on Twitter, said, "Radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally."

Democrats credited young people sabotaging the campaign's tally by booking the tickets online, which did not actually reserve a spot at the rally at the expense of others but simply inflated the Trump campaign's numbers.

Fox News' Casey Stegall contributed to this report.