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Trump's Claim That Obama Is to Blame for the Coronavirus Test Delay Just Got the Brutal Fact Check It Deserves

Trump's Claim That Obama Is to Blame for the Coronavirus Test Delay Just Got the Brutal Fact Check It Deserves

Win McNamee/Getty Images // Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Contributor/Getty Images

President Donald Trump raised eyebrows earlier this week when he found a way to blame his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for a shortage in COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, tests.

Trump claimed the shortage was due to an unspecified Obama-era rule.

The President told reporters in a briefing on the rapidly-spreading virus:

"The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we're doing, and we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more rapid and accurate fashion."

When a reporter challenged the claim, Vice President Mike Pence stepped in and claimed it had to do with regulations that required private laboratories obtain FDA approval during a public health emergency to build and distribute their own tests.

Soon, Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield and Secretary of Health Alex Azar were blaming Obama as well.

Azar said:

"Since the Obama administration, if you are developing a clinical lab test like this, as CDC did, you need to go FDA and get approval, and emergency use authorization, to send this test out. What we said on Saturday is that if you are a certified clinical lab able to handle high-complexity tests […] you may develop your own test, and you do not have to wait for us to approve it for you to start using it in patients."

There's just one problem: It's a George W. Bush era rule, enacted after the September 11 attacks. The Obama administration issued a non-binding guidance proposing more regulations, but the effort was scrapped after the legislature agreed to take it up.

The Trump administration didn't strip the regulation until private laboratories urged them to, after hundreds of tests from the Centers for Disease Control proved faulty.

Fact checkers at The Washington Post gave the lie four Pinocchios, and a brutal correction:

"Trump is looking for scapegoats to excuse his administration's sluggish efforts to expand testing. But he cannot blame Obama. There was no 'Obama rule,' just draft guidance that never took effect and was withdrawn before Trump took office. If there was confusion by labs, the administration could have easily taken the action on EUAs sooner than it did. The Trump administration's efforts to work with Congress on draft legislation on LDTs certainly made clear how it viewed the issue."

People knew Trump's blame on Obama was baseless.

It's worth noting that Trump's extensive cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as to other health agencies, may have played a role in the test shortage.