Former President Donald Trump is denying he had COVID-19 before his Cleveland, Ohio, debate with President Joe Biden, despite his former chief of staff claiming Trump tested positive days prior to the event.
"The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News," Trump said in a statement. "In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate."
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Trump's statement isn't necessarily a contradiction of Mark Meadows's claim, detailed in an excerpt of his forthcoming memoir posted by the Guardian. Meadows says Trump tested positive, then negative in a follow-up test.
"Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there," he wrote.
Bombshell from former chief of staff Mark Meadows' new book: Trump tested positive for COVID three days before debate with Biden, well before it was disclosed. Meadows says Trump was symptomatic as well. pic.twitter.com/OmoOB5P1pA— The Recount (@therecount) December 1, 2021
While the president looked "a little tired" before departing en route for the debate, held on Sept. 29, 2020, Meadows wrote he was "content" about Trump traveling to a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania. However, White House physician Sean Conley called him, telling him to "stop the president from leaving" because "he just tested positive for COVID."
Although Meadows was not able to stop the president from leaving, he did inform the president of his positive COVID-19 test. Trump's reply, Meadows said, "rhyme[d] with 'Oh spit, you've gotta be trucking lidding me.'"
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Meadows told Trump that the test had been done with an old testing kit and that the doctors would repeat it in hopes of confirming it was a false positive. After a "brief but tense wait," Meadows called back with news of the negative test.
Trump took that call as "full permission to press on as if nothing had happened." Meadows, however, "instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive."
"I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks, but I also didn't want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about — which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not," Meadows said.
The North Carolina Republican said Trump's positive result on Sept. 26, 2020, was a shock to the White House after officials staged a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for a position on the Supreme Court. That ceremony was later deemed a "super-spreader event" after which several attendees contracted the virus.
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Trump announced on Oct. 2, 2020, that he and his wife tested positive. He was then admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days.
Meadows's memoir, The Chief's Chief, will be published next week by All Seasons Press.