CNN's Keilar vs. Trump Campaign Comms Director On Testing "Joke": Are Dead Americans "Funny To You?" | Video | RealClearPolitics

CNN's Keilar vs. Trump Campaign Comms Director On Testing "Joke": Are Dead Americans "Funny To You?"

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CNN's Brianna Keilar confronted Trump 2020 campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh on Monday about President Donald Trump's recent comments about coronavirus testing that he made at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Keilar said 120,000 Americans are dead and millions are unemployed and that is not funny. She asked him if he thought that was funny. Murtaugh continued to argue the president was using "ironic humor" to make a point about how testing will lead to larger numbers of those infected,


KEILAR:  Tim, I think you should look at the numbers. If you really want to compare the Florida numbers right now to New York, I think – I mean, I think I’m not going to talk anymore about it with you, because I think you should just go study the numbers. 
 
I want to ask you about the agenda for the president here coming into what he hopes is a second term because we looked at this event on Saturday, and it was billed as this idea of talking about the economic resurgence of America, and instead what we heard was a lot of stuff like this.
 
(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)
 
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You just saw it outside. You just saw it outside. You saw these thugs that came along. These people call them protestors. 
 
They want to demolish our heritage. They want to defund and dissolve our police departments. 
 
It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and a very tough – you know, I’ve used the word on occasion -- hombre. A very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away. 
 
You want to save that beautiful heritage of ours. We have a great heritage. 
 
By the way, it’s a disease without question. Has more names than any disease in history. I can name Kung flu, I can name 19 different versions of names.
 
(END VIDEOCLIP)
 
KEILAR:  You, Tim, are in charge of communications for this campaign. Do you want it defined by racist comments?
 
MURTAUGH:  Look, the president has been pretty clear and insistent that he was responding to China’s accusation that the United States military somehow had something to do with their initial outbreak. 
 
And so, he has been consistent all along in trying to make sure that people understand –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  That’s not what he said. That’s not what he said, and I don’t know if you heard it –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  -- but we just played a lot of what he said during the event.
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
MURTAUGH:  -- just another version of trying to make sure that people understand that the origination of the coronavirus was the Wuhan Province of China. 
 
And I know that it’s not very popular in the liberal elite media to be able to pinpoint the location of it. It would – they would – they would rather ignore where it came from, but the president is not going to let that happen. 
 
And with regard to the beginning of that clip that you played, you don’t think – does CNN not think that it’s disturbing to a lot of Americans that you have leading Democrats, leading people who have endorsed Joe Biden calling for the defunding and the disbanding of police departments all across the Untied States? 
 
Who would answer the phone when you call 911? That’s exactly the point that the president was trying to illustrate there.
 
KEILAR:  With – when he said Kung flu?
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
MURTAUGH:  -- Democrat party. You played me several clips, and you’re only asking me to respond to one. The beginning of that clip he was talking about the defund the police movement, which is a very, very important issue in this campaign because it’s a stupid idea. It’s a ridiculous idea, and it’s insane to talk about reducing law enforcement presence in people’s communities. 
 
Who would protect – look at what happened in Minneapolis with businesses burning down, many in minority communities. These are people who used their life’s work, their life savings to build these businesses –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  Tim, I asked you about the racist comments. I get why you pivoted to this, and you can keep bringing up this to your audience of one, but the use of Kung flu –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
MURTAUGH:  You played the clip. Do you want me to respond to it or not?
 
KEILAR:  Yes. I asked you about the racist comments. You seized on, of course –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
MURTAUGH:  And I answered.
 
(LAUGHTER)
 
KEILAR:  -- the one thing, but I want – I want you to know that -- I mean, it’s just a fact. It’s a racist comment. 
 
I want to ask you about something the president said about coronavirus testing at this event. This was a very important thing that he said at this rally. 
 
Let’s listen.
 
(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)
 
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Here’s the bad part. When you test of – 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.
 
(END VIDEOCLIP)
 
KEILAR:  Is that true? He’s asked for the testing to be slowed down?
 
MURTAUGH:  No, it’s not. And as a matter of fact, the United States leads the world at testing. We’ve tested as a nation more than 25 million Americans and about a half million per --
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  So why he’s saying that then?
 
MURTAUGH:  He’s – it was clearly – I understand that there’s not much of a sense of humor at the CNNCenter, but the president was joking, trying to illustrate the point that when you do expect testing you will naturally expand the number of positive cases that you detect. 
 
That is the very point he was making. And I’m not – I’m not surprised that you’re either unable or unwilling to understand that the president had a tongue in cheek remark there, but that’s the point he was making.
 
KEILAR:  Well, I mean, Tim, 120,000 Americans dead and millions of Americans unemployed. 
 
I’ll tell – I do not think that is funny. Do you think that is funny?
 
MURTAUGH:  He was trying to illustrate the point that when you expand testing in the manner that the United States has –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  You said it’s a joke.
 
MURTAUGH:  -- in fact in leading the world, you can often use ironic humor to try to make the point –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  Is it funny, Tim?
 
MURTAUGH:  He was trying to illustrate –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  Is it dead Americans, unemployed Americans, is that funny to you?
 
MURTAUGH:  You can ask and re-ask the question 100 different ways. The point that the president was making –
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
KEILAR:  And you won’t answer it, and there’s a reason why.
 
MURTAUGH:  I am answering it. You – the president was illustrating the point that American testing has expanded to such lengths that we are now detecting more positive cases. 
 
It stands to reason. It stands to reason we will have more positive cases when you do more testing. That’s just a fact.
 
KEILAR:  You are aware that the hospitalization numbers disprove what you are saying, that testing does not solely account for the numbers that we are seeing, including in Florida, a state that you just held up as a model, which it certainly is not. It is not funny that Americans are dying. It’s not funny that they’re unemployed. 
 
Tim Murtaugh, thank you for coming on. 

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