A reporter is publicly apologizing after feuding with President Donald Trump over COVID-19 testing statistics, a row that was put to rest when Dr. Deborah Birx read the real numbers to the room.
Yahoo News White House correspondent Hunter Walker asked the botched question during a Tuesday Oval Office meeting between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Mr. President, overall South Korea has done five times more tests than the U.S. per capita,” Walker said. “Why is that?”
“I don’t think that’s true,” the president said, before asking Walker what news agency he represents.
Trump then turned to Birx, who explained that America’s outbreaks resemble those in Europe and not South Korea or other Asian countries. Eventually, the doctor found the true numbers behind Walker’s claim.
“To our Yahoo gentleman, I just want to make it clear that South Korea’s testing was 11 per 100,000,” Birx said, “and we’re at 17 per 100,000.”
Trump was quick to jump on Walker for presenting incorrect information as fact.
“Are you going to apologize, Yahoo?” Trump asked the reporter in front of the room. “That’s why you’re Yahoo and nobody knows who the hell you are.”
In the Oval Office, I asked about test rates and infection rates compared to South Korea. President Trump and Dr. Birx said I was wrong that they’ve done more tests per capita. Trump said I should apologize. They did not address multiple questions about our higher infection rate.
Walker claimed he misread data from a test-tracking website, but the United States surpassed South Korea in per capita testing on or before April 20, a fact documented a full week before the reporter’s question.
The spat follows increasingly tense news briefings as Trump squares off against media groups that have misrepresented his comments.
Most recently, media outlets took comments Trump made about disinfectants and presented them as if the president was seriously encouraging Americans to put bleach and other chemicals into their bodies; Trump later said he was being sarcastic.
The move left the president questioning if the regular coronavirus briefings were even worth his time, or if they just served as a chance for the media to produce new controversies about him.
If this Yahoo reporter’s embarrassing gaffe is any indication, Trump’s negative opinion of the establishment media won’t be swayed anytime soon.