President Donald Trump's visit to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention turned into a scattershot defence of his administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, veering into political score-settling, exaggerations and talk harking back to his impeachment.
The president, while touring the CDC, talked up his ability to understand the virus, although he has repeatedly mis-stated how long it would take for a vaccine to be developed and available.
Trump bragged that he had a predisposition toward science because of his "super genius" uncle.
"You know my uncle was a great — he was at MIT," the president said while standing next to health officials who are working to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.
"He taught at MIT for a record number of years. He was a great super genius, Dr. John Trump."
John G. Trump was an accomplished electrical engineer who went on to become a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His nephew, the president, spoke of his purported grasp of science, saying: "I like this stuff. I really get it.
"People are surprised that I understand it.
"Every one of these doctors said: 'How do you know so much about this?'
"Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president."
On social media, the reaction to Trump's comments was harsh.
One Twitter user wrote: "The guy who looked into the sun during a solar eclipse thinks he could have been a research scientist?"
That was a reference to the president looking up at the total eclipse of the sun - the first time in more than 40 years that Americans could see one - in August 2017.
Another Twitter user posted a meme showing Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th president, putting his head in his hand.
Another Twitter user commented: "Each clip is worse than the previous one. I can't take it anymore."
One Twitter user urged the president to follow his passion for science and pursue a new career, writing: "It's not too late Donnie. Resign right now and apply to MIT!
"Maybe you will get the Nobel Prize!!!!!!"
Another Twitter user urged the mainstream media to "stop acting like this is normal!"
"He's a sick man and it's time to stop normalising him!"
With financial markets slowing and the virus spreading, Trump tried once more to quell the growing alarm that has prompted travel to be curtailed and events to be cancelled from coast to coast. But Trump, wearing his "Keep America Great" campaign hat while discussing the global worry, repeatedly detoured from his message of reassurance.
Trump called Washington state's governor, who is dealing with the most serious outbreak in the nation, a "snake." He said he'd prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn't be added to the count for the nation's total number of infections. And he falsely claimed that a test for the virus was available immediately to all who want it.
He also suggested the accuracy of the coronavirus test was "perfect — like the letter was perfect." With that, Trump was making a comparison to the July phone call with Ukraine's president that led to his impeachment. Trump, who was acquitted by the Senate last month, has insisted he did nothing wrong.
Before departing Washington, Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus response funding bill at the White House and instructed the public: "Be calm. It will go away."
"We have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers are lower than just about anybody," Trump said about cases of the virus.
But his messaging was more scattered at the CDC, reflective of the on-again, off-again, on-again nature of the trip itself. The White House had announced that Trump's trip to the CDC was cancelled because of concern about a possible infection there, but that person tested negative and Trump ended up going after all.
During his visit to the CDC, Trump touted the ratings of his town hall this week on Fox News and mocked a CNN reporter. He cut off Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as he tried to counsel Americans to be patient. And despite calling this week for bipartisanship during the crisis, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence not to be complimentary during his meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington because "he is a snake."
"So I told Mike not to be complimentary of the governor because that governor is a snake, OK? Inslee. I said, 'If you're nice to him he will take advantage.' And I would have said no. Let me just tell you: We have a lot of problems with the governor, the governor of Washington. ... So Mike may be happy with him but I'm not."
Trump also insisted that for those concerned about the virus, "Anybody who wants a test, can get a test."
Pence, who chairs the federal coronavirus task force, at a later briefing, suggested a timeline of "weeks" before the test would be widely available to the general public.
Pence was also asked whether Trump's comments about Inslee and impeachment raised questions about how seriously the president was taking the virus. The vice president responded, "I promise you, President Trump has no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people."
Inslee tweeted his own response to Trump's comments: "It's important for leaders to speak with one voice. I just wish the President and Vice-President could get on the same page."
Trump also said he talked on the phone with California Governor Gavin Newsom about the 3500 people stuck on a cruise ship anchored off the coast of California. He said he'd prefer for the passengers to remain on the ship — in part so they would not count against the total number of victims in the United States.
"I don't need to have the numbers double because of the people on that ship," he said. Trump did say he would defer to the medical experts and Pence later said the ship would be brought to a US port.
The legislation Trump signed at the White House provides federal public health agencies with money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments and helps state and local governments prepare and respond to the threat. "It's an unforeseen problem," Trump said of the virus. "It came out of nowhere. We're taking care of it."