President Donald Trump abruptly ended a coronavirus press briefing on Monday after he was challenged by an Asian American reporter for CBS News why he told her to “ask China” about coronavirus testing, and later by a CNN correspondent who tried to ask further queries.
Weijia Jiang asked Trump why he was emphasizing that the U.S. was doing better than any other country when it comes to testing.
“Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we are still seeing more cases every day?” she asked.
“Well, they are losing their lives everywhere in the world,” Trump said. “Maybe that is a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me. Ask China that question. When you ask China that question you may get a very unusual answer.”
The president then called on CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who was walking to the microphone before Jiang then said, “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?”
“I am not saying it specifically to anybody. I am saying it to anybody who would ask a nasty question like that,” Trump said.
“That is not a nasty question,” Jiang objected.
Then Trump tried to call on someone else, before Collins said, “But you pointed to me. … You called on me.”
Trump then said, “I did, and you didn’t respond, and I am now calling on the young lady in the back.”
But Yamiche Alcindor, reporter for PBS Newshour, said that Trump pointed at her and she deferred to Collins to ask her question.
As Collins tried to ask her question, Trump wrapped up the briefing.
Jiang was born in China but immigrated to West Virginia when she was 2 years old. In March, she said that an unidentified White House official called the coronavirus the “kung flu.” Trump and other administration officials at the time were referring to the virus as the “China virus.”
The briefing, held in the Rose Garden, was Trump’s first since April 27. The White House scaled back the frequency of the press conferences. Trump drew ridicule during a briefing in late April in which he suggested that medical professionals test whether injecting disinfectants into the human body would be an effective treatment for the virus, a comment he later said was made in sarcasm.
At the briefing, Trump announced plans to expand testing capacity across the country. The White House announced that it is sending $11 billion to help governors reach testing capacity so they can reopen their states’ economies. That money already was approved as part of the CARES Act, the massive relief legislation that Congress passed in March.
Reporters and much of the White House staff wore face masks to the briefing, after the revelation last week that one of the president’s valets and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump himself did not wear a mask, but told reporters that he was a far enough distance away from others in the Rose Garden.
The press briefing was devoted to testing, with banners touting that “America leads the world in testing.” Trump also repeated that the U.S. is well ahead of other countries when it comes to the total number of screenings performed.
Yet when measured on a per capita basis — screenings per 1,000 people — other countries are higher.
There also has been some question as to why it would be safe to reopen workspaces when the White House still has positive cases, even with its own set of daily screening procedures. That led to a question from ABC News’ Jon Karl, who asked when “it will be when Americans across the country will be able to get tested everyday as they go back to work.”
“Very soon,” Trump answered.
The president also claimed that “if someone wants to be tested right now, they will be able to be tested.”
But Karl later questioned whether that is true. Although the numbers of tests have gone up, he noted that it is “not the case” that everyone can get a test. He noted that 1.9 million tests per day is still far short of “every American that wants a test can get a test.”
Trump responded, “Not everybody should get a test. They have to have certain things and they are going to know when they are not feeling right.”
As it turns out, there may be caveats to Trump’s claim that anyone can get a test.
Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, cautioned that not everyone needs a test. He said, “Anybody who needs a test can get a test in America with the numbers we have. If you are symptomatic with a respiratory illness, that is an indication of a test and you can get a test. If you need to be contact traced, you can get a test. And we are starting to have asymptomatic surveillance, which is very important.” He said that was more than 3 million tests per week, which he said was sufficient. He said that he does not have symptoms so he does not get tested every day.