Vice President Mike Pence appears to have deleted a tweet praising Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak amid an uproar over the president's comments in recorded conversations with journalist Bob Woodward that contradicted what he told the public.
The social media post went up on Thursday but has since been deleted. In it, the ever-loyal Trump No. 2 urged his followers "to remember that President @realDonaldTrump shut down the entire American economy to put the health of America first."
The post went up at 11:11 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, the same day the official coronavirus death toll in the United States approached 192,000. At least 6.4m Americans have contracted the virus. Both figures are according to data compiled and analysed by The Johns Hopkins University.
The president, during a Thursday afternoon press conference, made the same point about shutting down the US economy this spring to help slow the spread of the novel virus.
But he also vowed, as long as he is president, there will be no more shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
"We're not doing any more shutdowns. We did the shutdown and now we're doing the opening, and there won't be any more shutdowns," Mr Trump said. "There could be a little section, a small section, where you have a breakout, but we're not talking about shutdowns like they were talking about, depending on experts. We're not going to be doing that."
The VP tweet deletion came on the second consecutive day of the president and his team denying that he told Mr Woodward in early February the coronavirus was "deadly stuff" and was transmitted among humans through the air while he was publicly downplaying its severity -- and dismissing any need to wear masks.
"There's no lie here. What we're doing is we're leading," a head-shaking Mr Trump snapped after telling ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl his question about why the president told a "lie" to his country was a "terrible question" and the journalist is a "disgrace" to his employer.
"If he thought that was a bad statement, he would have reported it," Mr Trump claimed, referring to Mr Woodward. "No one thought it was bad."But plenty of Democratic officials do.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this week called it a "dereliction" of the president's duty. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that "Trump lied and people died."
After audio recordings were released by Mr Woodward with the president admitting "I always wanted to play it down," Mr Biden called that a "life-and-death betrayal" of the American people. The president contends he was just trying to keep the country "calm."