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11 times Trump's offensive comments were 'just a joke'

Trump has repeatedly insisted throughout his presidency that his dangerous, misleading, or outright offensive remarks are simply jokes, usually following intense backlash.

By Emily Singer - June 22, 2020
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The White House is once again in damage control mode after Donald Trump said at a campaign rally on Saturday that he purposefully asked for coronavirus testing to be slowed down because too many tests were coming back positive.

“Here’s the bad part, when you test the, 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!” Trump said in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “They test and they test. We had tests, the people don’t know what’s going on. We got tests. We got another one over here. The young man’s 10 years old. He’s got the sniffles. He’ll recover in about 15 minutes. That’s a case. Add him too, that’s a case.”

The comments were immediately met with backlash, as Americans struggled for weeks to obtain coronavirus tests at the outset of the pandemic. Public health experts say the tests are a helpful tool to identify outbreaks and slow the spread of the virus.

To stop the criticism, Trump’s aides reverted to one of their tried and true tactics when Trump finds himself embroiled in controversy: They claimed the comment was just a joke.

Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Sunday that Trump was obviously kidding” when he made that remark. And White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump’s “slow the testing down” comment was made “in jest.”

Trump, however, did not say he was joking. In an interview with Scripps television released on Monday, Trump wouldn’t answer when he was asked if he was joking about asking for testing to be slowed down.

Here are 10 other times Trump or his defenders claimed his offensive or off-color remarks were just jokes.

“Russia, if you’re listening”

In a now infamous news conference in July 2016, Trump called on Russia to find emails Hillary Clinton had deleted from her private server — a controversy for which she was never charged with any crime and one which likely helped sink her presidential bid.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at the time. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Now-former special counsel Robert Mueller later said that Russia made its first attempt to hack into Clinton’s email server the very same day Trump made that comment.

Trump has since claimed he was joking when he asked Russia to find Clinton’s emails.

“I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer,” he wrote in November 2018, in a series of written responses to questions Mueller’s team had sent him in the course of its investigation.

Mueller later said Trump’s responses were lackluster and incomplete and were inadequate in helping his investigation proceed. Trump also repeatedly refused to sit down and speak with Mueller or address any follow-ups to those questions.

Praise for WikiLeaks

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly praised WikiLeaks for releasing hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign.

“WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks,” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania that October.

But in 2019, after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested and charged with trying to steal government secrets, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was just “making a joke” when he repeatedly praised the organization.

“Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign,” Sanders told “Fox News Sunday” last year. “Certainly we take this serious.”

Obama is the “founder of ISIS”

Again during the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed former President Barack Obama was the “founder” of the terrorist organization ISIS.

The accusation drew widespread condemnation.

In August that year, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt tried to nudge Trump into saying he hadn’t meant his comment literally, but rather that Obama’s policies helped lead to ISIS.

Trump didn’t take the bait, saying he literally meant that Obama had founded ISIS.

“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said on Hewitt’s show. “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”

Trump eventually tried to claim he had only been joking, only after criticism against him began to mount.

Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) ‘the founder’ of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?” Trump tweeted on Aug. 12, 2016.

Trump urged law enforcement to rough up suspects

In July 2017, during a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, New York, Trump told police they shouldn’t be “too nice” with suspects.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, acting out the scenario on stage of how officers ensure suspects don’t hit their heads while putting them into patrol cars. “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

Amid backlash, then-White House press secretary Sanders tried to claim Trump was joking.

“I believe he was making a joke at the time,” she told reporters that same month.

Trump has notably shown in recent days that he believes law enforcement should brutalize suspects — including a call for police to shoot looters at racial justice protests across the country.

Trump called Democrats who didn’t applaud for him “treasonous”

After his State of the Union address in February 2018, Trump attacked Democratic lawmakers who did not clap at every aspect of his speech.

“Even on positive news — really positive news, like that — they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” Trump said. “Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Sanders later said said Trump — who has a penchant for accusing people he doesn’t like or those critical of him of committing treason — was “clearly joking” when he made that accusation.

“Any guy who can do a body slam — he’s my guy”

During a speech in October 2018, Trump praised Republican Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter during a special election in 2017.

“Any guy who can do a body slam — he’s my guy,” Trump said at a campaign rally in the state.

Once again, after that comment drew an outcry, now-House Minority Whip Steve Scalise claimed Trump had only been joking.

“President Trump was clearly ribbing Congressman Gianforte for last year’s incident, which he apologized for last year,” Scalise tweeted at the time. “It’s obvious he was not encouraging his supporters to engage in attacks, and not one person harassed the numerous media reporters who were present.”

“I am the chosen one”

In August of 2019, as his trade war with China was raging, Trump claimed he was the “chosen one” to fix trade disparities between the two countries.

“Somebody had to do it,” Trump said, before looking to the sky and saying, “I am the Chosen One.”

“I was put here by people,” he continued. “I was put here by people to do a great job. And that’s what I’m doing.”

That comment came hours after Trump tweeted a comment from a right-wing pundit who called Trump the “the second coming of God.

When asked the next day about why he had compared himself to God, Trump attacked the reporter who posed the question.

“Let me tell you, you know exactly what I meant. It was sarcasm. It was joking,” Trump said. “We were all smiling. And a question like that is just fake news. You’re just a faker.”

Floating pardons for aides who defy the law

In August 2019, the Washington Post reported that Trump once floated pardons for aides who defied the law in order to help get Trump’s border wall built.

An anonymous White House aide later claimed to the Post that Trump was joking when he made the comment.

Trump later appeared to undercut that claim, tweeting, “The Amazon Washington Post and @CNN just did a Fake Interview on Pardons for Aids on the Wall, and that I didn’t think the Wall on the Southern Border was that important to stop Illegals wanting to come into our Country. WRONG, vitally important. Will make a BIG impact. So bad!”

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens”

During the House impeachment investigation in October 2019, Trump infamously called on China to look into now-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump made the remark while defending his efforts to force Ukraine to investigate Biden, for which he was ultimately impeached.

“And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) quickly came to Trump’s defense, saying Trump was just “needling” the press when he made the comment and wasn’t actually serious.

The White House, however, wouldn’t confirm whether Rubio’s comment was accurate

More recently, in a tell-all book, former national security adviser John Bolton said Trump tried to get China to help Trump’s reelection bid.

Trump floats injecting disinfectent as coronavirus cure

Earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen,Trump wondered aloud at a White House briefing whether injecting disinfectant could cure those afflicted with the coronavirus.

Trump was mocked for the comment, which got so much attention that the popular disinfectant maker Lysol had to officially warn the public not to follow Trump’s advice.

Trump went on to claim he was being “sarcastic” when he floated the idea.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters just like you, just to see what would happen,” Trump said at a bill signing for coronavirus aid. “I was asking a sarcastic and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands, and it would make things much better.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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