President Donald Trump abruptly turned and walked away from the lectern at a White House news briefing Monday after telling a reporter to "ask China" in response to a question about U.S. coronavirus testing capacity.
"If people want to get tested, they get tested. We have the greatest capacity in the world not even close," Trump said. The U.S. has conducted more than 9 million coronavirus tests, according to The COVID Tracking Project. While that is the highest raw total for any nation, it trails the per capita testing of several other nations.
"Why does that matter?" CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang asked in response to Trump's claim. "Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we're still seeing more cases every day?"
"Well, they're losing their lives everywhere in the world. And maybe that's a question you should ask China," Trump replied. "Don't ask me, ask China that question, OK. When you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer."
Trump then called on CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins, who gave Jiang a chance to ask a follow-up question.
"Sir, why are you saying that to me specifically? That I should ask China?" asked Jiang, who was raised in West Virginia after immigrating to the U.S. from China at age 2.
Fact check:How many COVID-19 tests are 'needed’ to reopen?
"I'm not saying it specifically to anybody. I'm saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that," Trump said.
Trump then called on PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor, prompting an objection from Collins.
"But you called on me," Collins told Trump.
"I did and you didn't respond, and now I'm calling on the young lady in the back, please," Trump said.
"I just wanted to let my colleague finish, but can I ask you a question?" Collins persisted after Alcindor gestured for her to continue.
At that point, Trump thanked everyone for attending and left the Rose Garden.
'Keep your voice down':Trump has another confrontation with a reporter at coronavirus briefing
Trump has had testy exchanges with Jiang, Collins and Alcindor at previous news briefings, as well as other reporters.
"Keep your voice down," he told Jiang after she asked about his early comments downplaying the threat posed by the virus.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," he told her on April 3 after she asked about White House adviser Jared Kushner's contention that a national reserve of medical supplies belonged to the federal government and not the states.
Trump seemed perturbed by the three reporters' willingness to cooperate by allowing their colleagues to finish their question even as the president tried to move on.
"The Lamestream Media is truly out of control. Look how they work (conspire!) together. They are the Enemy of the People, but don’t worry, we will WIN in November!" Trump tweeted along with a video clip of the exchange.
Some on Twitter said Trump that telling an Asian-American reporter to "ask China" smacked of racism and Jiang's question as to why he told her that specifically indicated she shared that concern.
Trump faced similar criticism when he suggested at a February 2017 news conference that African-American reporter April Ryan set up a meeting with black lawmakers, asking, "Are they friends of yours?"
But the president's "ask China" response is reflective a larger strategy to deflect any blame for administration's handling of the pandemic onto China, a chief U.S. rival and the place where the outbreak began.
"This is China’s fault. The virus came from China and China covered it up. Because China lied about the extent of the virus, our public health officials acted late," a 57-page memo prepared for the National Republican Senatorial Committee advised Republicans to tell reporters who asked if Trump was to blame for the outbreak, which has killed more than 80,000 Americans.
'Dangerous dynamic':Coronavirus threatens new 'Cold War' between US and China