July 5, 2020 1:55 PM EDT

On Sunday, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declined to criticize President Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that 99% of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless.”

As the United States neared 130,000 deaths from COVID-19 this Independence Day weekend, Trump asserted at a speech yesterday that the U.S. has tested 40 million people and that 99% of cases are “harmless.” The President’s claim contradicts the existing data, including estimates by the Centers for Disease Control of the number of asymptomatic patients and evidence that this group can actively transmit the disease. But when FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn appeared on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday, he refused to contradict the President’s comment, instead urging Americans to practice social distancing and wear masks.

CNN’s Dana Bash urged Hahn to address the President’s statement, expressing concern that the President’s claim could lead people to underestimate the dangers of the virus.

“This is really important— probably one of the most important misclaims, or frankly lies that the President has put out there, because it really affects people’s health. If they hear the President saying, ‘99% of people are fine,’ they’re going to change their behavior, potentially get sick, infect other people. How does that make you feel as a member of his own task force?” Bash said.

“I totally support the CDC and the information that they’re putting out with respect to this pandemic,” Hahn responded. “I think it’s again really important— the guidelines that we’ve emphasized, the, the data that we have. Again, it’s a rapidly evolving situation and we’re going to have more data.”

When Bash pressed him a third time to address the President’s claim, Hahn declined.

“I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong,” Hahn said, urging Americans to take the virus “seriously.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST