JOE Biden has been contradicted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after claiming that President Trump was to blame for all of the United States' coronavirus deaths.
The Democratic nominee was speaking at a town hall event near his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania when he made the comment, branded "outrageous" by senior Republicans.
The remarks came as the total number of people killed by the coronavirus in the US neared 200,000.
The country now has over 6.9million confirmed cases of the virus, more than a fifth of the global toll, with around 40,000 positive tests still being recorded each day.
President Trump has faced criticism from opponents over his handling of the pandemic, having previously said the virus would "miraculously" disappear by April and repeatedly called for an end to states' lockdowns.
Appearing at a drive-in CNN Town Hall on Thursday, Biden was asked about recent claims by Trump attorney general William Barr that the lockdowns had been "the greatest intrusion on civil liberties" in the US since slavery.
"Think of what [President Trump] has said," Biden said.
"Look, wearing [a] mask is about making sure no-one else gets sick. It's not to protect you so much.
"It's to make you sure you don't infect someone else. I call that a patriotic requirement. I call that what we should be doing right now.
"And if the president had done his job from the beginning, all the people [who have died from coronavirus] would still be alive.
"Look at the data."
The comment was quickly picked up by fact checkers, who pointed out that even countries like New Zealand and South Korea, which are much smaller than the US and have won praise for their handling of the pandemic, have suffered some deaths.
Speaking at a weekly press conference on Friday, Speaker Pelosi, the most senior elected Democrat in the US, also appeared to contradict the claim.
Taking aim at what she called the "enablers" still serving in the Trump administration, she said: "They're going to have to tell their children and their grandchildren the responsibility they have for the fact that we are 200,000 people dead.
"And that didn't have to happen. Would they have all been saved? No. But many would have.
"There's scientific metrics of how many people could have been saved."
A number of senior GOP figures also slammed Biden over the comments.
Speaking to Fox News after the event, Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, said: "Joe Biden went hyperbolic at a super-sonic level.
"For him to say that every death was the personal fault of the president, that's pretty outrageous."
Matt Whitlock, an advisor to the National Republican Senate Campaign, took to twitter to accuse Biden of "letting China off the hook" over its failure to stop the pandemic in its earliest stages.
The Trump campaign also accused CNN host Anderson Cooper of "giving Biden a total pass on his lies and misrepresentations" and said many of the questions put to Biden had been "an invitation for him to attack President Trump."
Campaign adviser Jason Miller also said on twitter that the event was an "in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign".
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