- President Donald Trump’s comments at his Tulsa, Oklahoma rally included several claims about the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump partially used his first appearance in three months to repeat his previous comments about the virus, slamming China and his Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden in the process and saying he was slowing down testing.
- Lawmakers condemned Trump’s comments while some administration officials backed the president, saying, for example, his comments about testing were a joke.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on Sunday raised concerns early as health experts cautioned against gathering crowds in an indoor venue amid the novel coronavirus pandemic in what could be a superspreader event.
But despite the concerns and infections in Trump’s inner circle, Trump pushed forward with his rally, his first official campaign event since April. The president used the event to address the pandemic, reviving some of his most memorable claims and touting his response to the pandemic.
“China sent us the plague,” Trump said during the rally, before calling back to racist terms he has repeatedly used to describe the novel coronavirus.
“COVID-19, that name gets further and further away from China, as opposed to calling it the Chinese virus,” Trump said. “By the way, it’s a disease, without question, has more names than any other in history. I can name ‘kung flu,’ I can name, 19 different versions of names.”
—Benny (@bennyjohnson) June 21, 2020
Trump’s use of the term “Kung Flu” was previously condemned by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in March as “highly offensive” after reports said administration aides used the racist terminology. The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the remark.
In addition to referring to the disease as “Kung Flu,” Trump said that the US had tested 25 million people for COVID-19 before the president ordered authorities to “slow the testing down.”
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that the testing comment was “tongue in cheek” in “a light moment.”
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump made the comment in “frustration” over the press’ “focus” on rising case counts in the US.
Navarro also doubled down on Trump’s claims blaming China for the virus, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the coronavirus was a “product of the Chinese Communist party.”
“Did you say China created this virus, did I hear you wrong,” host Jake Tapper pressed Navarro.
“You did not hear me wrong,” Navarro said. “That virus was a product of the Chinese Communist party and until we get some information about what happened in those labs or what happened in that wet market we know that virus was spawned in China.”
—State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 21, 2020
The coronavirus was also at the center of Trump’s comments at the rally that appeared to serve as a platform for Trump to boast about his track record and air grievances against his opponents.
He insisted he has “done a phenomenal job with” confront the pandemic, shutting down the US in January, which he said was “months earlier than other people would have done it if they would have done it at all.”
Trump said he shut down the United States to “all people from China” and later, “closed it down to Europe,” but never imposed a complete ban on people traveling from Europe and the travel restriction policy that began on February 2 only affected people who had been in China in the previous 14 days from entering the US, and both had significant exceptions.
Despite rising rates of infection and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus that were recorded in several states in the days leading up to his rally, Trump predicted the country was on the way “up.”
“We’re going to be way up,” Trump said. “We’re not going to be where we were, but in many ways, other than all of the horrible, horrible death that was so needlessly caused by a virus that should have been stopped where it originated, which was China.”
As of Saturday, data from Johns Hopkins University counted more than 2.2 million cases and more than 119,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the US.
As authorities continue to grapple with outbreaks amid reopenings, states across the country are holding modified primaries and ramping up vote by mail initiatives, offering a glimpse of how the coronavirus may impact the presidential election this fall.