Trump downplays virus, disputes bad polls in testy interview with Fox's Wallace

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE in a testy interview with Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceSunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates Bass: 'Lesson learned' on 2016 Castro comments Fox's Wallace presses Trump adviser on whether campaign would accept foreign assistance MORE downplayed recent surges in coronavirus cases, defended his stance on Confederate-named bases and sought to attack his fall opponent, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system MORE

Trump disputed polls showing him trailing Biden, eviscerating his Democratic opponent as “not competent to be president” and controlled by the “radical” progressive wing of the party.

He also complained about his inability to hold rallies in some areas of the country due to the coronavirus, accusing “Democrat-run states” of not allowing him to do so.

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Trump’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday” — his first Sunday morning show interview in more than a year — comes less than four months out from the election, as polls show the president in an uphill race against his competitor. A recent poll found 6 in 10 voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.7 million in the United States and taken more than 140,000 American lives, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The president described recent spikes in coronavirus cases as “burning embers” or “flames” and insisted exploding cases in Florida would be “under control.” He also attributed the recent rise in cases — the U.S. surpassed a daily record of more than 77,000 new cases on Friday — to an increase in testing, a claim that health experts have widely disputed. 

Trump also described Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump: 'Fake News' not reporting 'big China Virus breakouts all over the World' Trump challenges Fauci over comments on coronavirus surges: 'Wrong!' Experts fear political pressure on COVID-19 vaccine MORE, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, as “a little bit of an alarmist” while denying that the White House is involved in an effort to discredit him.

“We'll put out the flames. And we'll put out in some cases just burning embers. We also have burning embers. We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame like, but it's going to be under control,” Trump told Wallace.

When Wallace pressed Trump on criticism of the lack of a national plan to address the coronavirus, Trump said he takes responsibility for “everything” before criticizing the responses of some of the governors.

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“Look, I take responsibility always for everything because it's ultimately my job, too. I have to get everybody in line. Some governors have done well, some governors have done poorly. They're supposed to have supplies they didn't have. I supplied everybody,” Trump said.

When asked about increase in cases in the country, Trump said many of those who contract the virus are young and would heal quickly.

“They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. ... I guess it's like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they're going to get better very quickly,” Trump said.

“Cases are up — many of those cases shouldn't even be cases. Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most testing.”

The appearance on “Fox News Sunday” was the president’s first on a Sunday morning show since June 2019 and his first interview on Wallace’s program since November 2018.

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It was filled with contentious exchanges. At one point, Wallace challenged Trump when the president claimed that Biden had called for defunding the police, an exchange that led the president to demand his aides brandish a copy of the recommendations set forth by the “unity task force” established by Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE (I-Vt.), a former Democratic presidential candidate.

“Let’s go. Get me the charter, please,” Trump said, gesturing to an aide off-screen. The president later thumbed through the document, taking issue with policy proposals on immigration, but did not land on a section calling for defunding the police, which Biden has explicitly said he opposes. Wallace said the White House never produced evidence of the president’s claim.

Trump also projected optimism about his reelection prospects despite recent national and battleground state polling showing him losing to Biden. Confronted with a new Fox News poll showing him trailing Biden nationally by 8 points, Trump rejected the poll as “fake.”

“I'm not losing, because those are fake polls. They were fake in 2016 and now they're even more fake,” the president insisted. “I have other polls that put me leading, and we have polls where I'm leading. I have a poll where we're leading in every swing state.”

Trump went on to lambaste Biden as “not competent” to serve as commander in chief and challenged him to take a cognitive test. He argued he has outperformed Biden on the economy.

“I built the greatest economy in history, I'm now doing it again,” Trump said, expressing confidence about the economic recovery amid the coronavirus, which resulted in millions of job losses due to lockdowns meant to curb its spread.

“I think the economy is expanding and growing beautifully,” Trump said later, doubting that the state of the economy would be a problem for him come Election Day. “Now, the Democrats want to keep it closed as long as possible because they think that's good for elections.”