After President Trump said during his Tulsa speech that he had ordered a slowdown in COVID-19 testing, the White House tried to do damage control by asserting the president was joking.
Even though that explanation was belied by the videotape, that thin story now has completely evaporated, partly because of Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Shortly after a Scripps reporter posted video of Trump twice dodging the question about whether he had ordered the slowdown in tests -- I half-expected the president to declare, “Hell, yes, I ordered the Code Red!” -- Vice President Mike Pence held a conference call with governors.
And, according to audio I have obtained, Sisolak asked a pointed question about testing:
The president's comment on Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helpful. We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing, to increase the availability of our testing. Our cases have gone up. It's not solely a result of more testing. It's also the result of people not wearing masks and not following the social protocols. So if we could all get on the same page and get a commitment and there's not a federal mandate to slow down testing, that would be very helpful.
(Sisolak may have a post-gubernatorial future as the host of “Sisolak Live” on PBS.)
Pence responded by saying several things of note — let me annotate.
Well, Steve, I appreciate that very much.
Oh, I am sure he did.
And rest assured we will continue to partner with you on testing. I think that the president's observation was a (slight pause) a passing observation in his remarks.
A “passing observation”? What? That’s not a joke or mocking the media, as White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany would later say at her briefing. By tonight, they will be claiming he never said it.
Pence quickly pivoted away from the question Sisolak asked and went on to brag about testing:
You know we are seeing that now that we are doing more than 500,000 tests a day, we are finding more people and that is contributing to some of our numbers. Just say to you and all the governors on the call, as the media has focused on the new cases number, that we would all explain the percentage of that is the extraordinary national success in testing. We're identifying people. That's a reflection of a great, great collaboration at the federal/state level as well as with our private sector.
The programming still works.
And then Pence concluded:
We appreciate your leadership there, Steve. We really do.
This may have been my favorite part. Pence just undermined the entire campaign here by Team Trump/Nevada GOP that has been attacking Sisolak’s leadership on the coronavirus. Now he has a stirring endorsement from the vice president. I say that as a passing observation only.