Trump tells Tulsa supporters he ordered a 'slow down' coronavirus testing because it would identify more cases. His advisers claimed it was a joke.

By Sophia Ankel

President Donald Trump told supporters at a campaign rally on Saturday that he ordered to "slow down" coronavirus testing because it would lead to the identification of more cases.

Speaking at the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump said the US had now tested 25 million people for COVID-19, adding: "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."

The president also called testing "a double-edged sword" and repeated the racist term "Kung Flu" to refer to the virus. He later defended his use of the term, saying it is "one of 19 or 20" names that people commonly use to describe COVID-19.

Trump also blamed the "radical fake news" media for not giving him credit for doing what he called "a phenomenal job" in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A White House official later told Reuters that Trump's comments about testing were a joke after they prompted outrage on social media.

"He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million + in testing," the official said.

In response to the president's comments, Virginia Senator Mark Warner tweeted: "119,000 people are dead, and the President doesn't care how many more people get sick, as long he doesn't have to take responsibility for it," 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Oversight Committee, also condemned the comments, tweeting: "Congress will be pursuing answers on this because the American people deserve to know if their president sabotaged efforts to detect and contain COVID-19 because he didn't like the results. The result he needs to focus on is the lives we can save."

To date, the US has seen more than 2.3 million cases and almost 122,000 reported deaths, according to Worldometer. Trump's speech comes as cases across the country have continued to rise, with several states seeing record daily increases this week.

The Tulsa rally, which was Trump's first campaign rally since the pandemic was announced in March, went ahead despite several warnings from healthcare experts that it could become a super spreading event. 

The turn-out on Saturday night was a lot smaller than expected, with many of the 19,000 seats in the arena left unoccupied. Hours before the rally was due to start, Trump's campaign announced six members of its team had tested positive for the COVID-19.

While face coverings were handed out at the event, only a handful of attendees wore masks inside the arena.