Former president Donald Trump denied Wednesday that he had COVID-19 during a 2020 debate with President Joe Biden.
“The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate,” Trump said in a statement that was distributed to the email list for his Save America PAC.
The denial came after the Guardian published a preview of the forthcoming memoir by Mark Meadows, who served as the single-term Republican’s chief of staff in the final year of Trump’s presidency.
Per the Guardian, in “The Chief’s Chief,” out Dec. 7, Meadows wrote that though both candidates were required “to test negative for the virus within seventy two hours of the start time” of the Sept. 29, 2020 debate, “Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there.” A second test, taken after a positive one, returned a negative result, the former chief of staff added.
Three days after that debate, Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center and treated for COVID-19. Speculation swirled about whether he had been positive for the virus at the debate and other events around the time, including a Sept. 26 White House reception to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which was not socially distanced and at which few attendees wore masks. His infection had not been publicly disclosed until just before his hospitalization, but following the nomination event, numerous other high-profile administration members and politicians, including then-First Lady Melania Trump, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, tested positive.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate, revealed just hours before Trump’s hospitalization that the first family had refused to comply with the venue’s masking rules.