When is Donald Trump kidding? When is he being sarcastic? When is he being serious? Who gets to decide?

Earlier today a reporter, following her journalism training, asked Trump, “Were you just kidding, or do you have a plan to slow down testing?”

His response: “I don’t kid, let me just tell you.”

At this weekend’s Tulsa rally, the president had said, referring to the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, “I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.”

Monday his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was speaking “in jest,” and other aides and supporters have explained the comment in similar terms. So the president’s response, which contradicts what his own aides have said in his defense, is newsworthy.

The president then went on to say “We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world” (a claim he has made before, without explaining what he means by “the greatest”) and repeated the connection that he has made before, that when testing increases, the number of cases increases.

He did not deny that he has a plan to slow down the testing for coronavirus.

What do you think about the president’s response “I don’t kid”?

Part of what journalists do is provide context. Useful context for Trump’s June claim “I don’t kid” is a reference to his claim in April that he was being “sarcastic” when he made a comment about the value of injecting disinfectant as a way to fight the virus. When a reporter asked him to clarify that comment, he said he was being sarcastic to “reporters like you,” even though the live event clearly showed him musing out loud and looking over at his own medical experts; he was not responding to a reporter’s question, and most observers found no trace of sarcasm in his voice.

Trump has certainly used the “I was only joking” defense before, but today’s blunt insistence “I don’t kid” seems to be an invitation that reporters should take Trump at his literal word, all the time.

But because of his free-flowing conversational style, often that’s just not possible.

Here’s a Washington Post story from August 2016: “We don’t know when Donald Trump is joking

A baby was interrupting the Republican presidential nominee. Trump immediately pivoted from currency devaluation to declare, “Don’t worry about that baby. I love babies! I hear that baby crying, I like it,” he said. “The mom’s running around, like . . . Don’t worry about it, you know? It’s young and beautiful and healthy, and that’s what we want.”

Trump continued talking, but more cries came minutes later. In a low voice, Trump said, “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here. That’s all right, don’t worry. I think she really believed me, that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking!”

Wait, did Donald Trump just kick a baby out of a rally? He did say he was “only kidding” about being pro-crying-baby, so is he now serious about being anti-baby?

Was Trump being sarcastic when he said “I was only kidding”?