White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro rebuffed criticism over President Donald Trump asking to slow coronavirus testing down, instead saying China “created” COVID-19 and sent “hundreds of thousands” of its own citizens abroad to spread the virus.
The Trump administration official responded Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union to Trump telling Tulsa, Oklahoma rally-goers Saturday that he directed his health officials to “slow the testing down, please,” in order to discover fewer cases.
Navarro insisted the president was only joking in a “tongue-in-cheek” fashion, before redirecting the conversation and culpability for the pandemic toward the Chinese government.
White House adviser Peter Navarro calls President Trump’s claims he ordered officials in his administration to slow down coronavirus testing “tongue and cheek” and “a light moment.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/1p1HV9IK6Y— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 21, 2020
State of the Union host Jake Tapper asked Navarro if the Trump administration and U.S. health officials are preparing for a potential breakout of COVID-19 in the fall, particularly as the presidential election draws closer.
“Of course,” Navarro replied. “You prepare for what can possibly happen. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But of course you prepare. I’ll tell you what. We’re a lot more prepared under this president than we were when China foisted this on us to begin with.”
The White House advisor continued: “China created this virus, they hid the virus and they sent over hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens here to spread that around and around the world. Whether they did that on purpose — that’s an open question. But that’s a fact.”
Chinese and U.S. officials have repeatedly accused the others’ government of facilitating the spread of the coronavirus late last year. Speaking at his first campaign rally since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, Trump repeatedly referred to the virus as the “China virus” and “Kung flu.” Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry officials and state-run media in the Communist country have likewise accused the Trump administration of simply botching the U.S. response.
Chinese government officials have repeatedly rebuked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s insistence that China sought to cover up the virus spread, and that U.S. intelligence officials have “enormous evidence” suggesting it originated in Wuhan.
Reacting to Trump telling rally-goers that he wants to decrease U.S. testing, Navarro laughed it off as a joke, frustrating Tapper.
“That was tongue-in-cheek. I know it was tongue-in-cheek. I’ve got news for you, Jake,” Navarro said, before mentioning the U.S. economy and the estimated 30 million Americans unemployed amid the pandemic. “My role here, Jake, at the White House is to help this president create jobs. And we are facing probably the worst economic crisis we have faced in our history.”
Newsweek reached out to Navarro’s Washington office for additional remarks Sunday afternoon as well as the Chinese government embassy.