President Donald Trump arrived too late in Cleveland on Tuesday to get a COVID-19 test ahead of the debate, according to Chris Wallace, the event’s moderator. Instead, the Fox News star revealed, there was an “honor system” for the two campaigns to have arrived having already tested negative.
Wallace dropped that news while being interviewed Friday afternoon by fellow Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, who had also been in Cleveland for the first Trump-Biden showdown. Reading from a Cleveland Clinic statement following the president’s positive coronavirus test, Hemmer noted that it stressed that “Individuals traveling with both candidates including the candidates themselves had been tested and tested negative by their respective campaigns.”
Hemmer further observed, “[The candidates] weren’t tested by the clinic based on the statement, Chris, and to me, that sounds like an honor system,” before noting that both he and Wallace were tested by the clinic prior to the event.
“The difference was I arrived on Sunday, you arrived on Monday,” Wallace explained. “They didn’t arrive until Tuesday afternoon. So for them to get tested, there wouldn’t have been enough time to have the test and have the debate at 9:00 that night. They didn’t show up until 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon. Yeah, there was an honor system when it came to the people that came into the hall from the two campaigns.”
Early Friday morning, the president announced that he and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, both tested positive for COVID-19. Officials stressed that the couple has only experienced “mild” symptoms and will quarantine at the White House residence. The bombshell news came hours after Trump confirmed Hope Hicks—one of his closest advisers who had traveled with the president multiple times in the past week, including to the debate—had also tested positive for the virus.
Several of Trump’s family members and inner circle who were in attendance Tuesday were seen not wearing masks inside the debate hall, despite the Cleveland Clinic’s rule requiring their use indoors. Furthermore, the entourage reportedly refused masks offered to them by clinic staff.
And during the debate itself, Trump continued to publicly dismiss the use of face coverings as a protective measure against COVID-19, at one point mocking his Democratic opponent for doing so.
“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” Trump said, before declaring that he only wears the protective gear “when needed.”
A slew of Republican officials who have recently attended presidential events, including RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), have since revealed they have tested positive. Biden and his wife Jill both tested negative on Friday.
On Friday, the City of Cleveland revealed 11 individuals have tested positive “stemming from pre-debate planning and set-up” and that a majority of those cases occurred among out-of-state residents. It is not immediately clear if any of the members in Trump’s orbit were among the residents counted by Ohio state officials.