Conservatives would have you believe that the president didn’t suggest injecting disinfectant as a potential coronavirus cure. But Trump himself now says he did—apparently “sarcastically” as part of a private, convoluted prank.
In a statement to reporters, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed the real story was that the president told Americans to only seek treatment from medical personnel—and not, say, the specifics of that treatment or whether it involved injecting household chemicals into the body.
“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasised again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany wrote. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”
Well, here’s that context. Earlier, Trump followed up on Department of Homeland Security adviser William Bryan’s remarks that the coronavirus is susceptible to destruction by UV light—something that scientists believe may not be enough to slow down the pandemic in the summer—by explicitly asking it there was some possibility of disinfecting lungs in this manner. He also clearly suggested that disinfectant, which Bryan had noted can be used to clean external surfaces, might be administered by “injection inside, or almost a cleaning… in the lungs.”
This is from the official White House transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.
So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.
Later, Trump did clarify he was at least, in part, referring to “sterilisation of an area” as disinfectant has a “big effect if it’s on a stationary object,” though he did not explicitly retract the idea of using disinfectants in the body. Later still, he doubled down on the idea that UV light could somehow be used to clear the body of coronavirus:
THE PRESIDENT: I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know — but if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor. But I’m like a person that has a good you know what.
Q But, sir, you’re the President.
THE PRESIDENT: Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?
[WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR DR. DEBORAH BIRX]: Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever—
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
DR. BIRX: —is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as—I’ve not seen heat or (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. OK?
As the transcript shows, Trump did briefly acknowledge that this magical light treatment or disinfectant injection must be performed by “medical doctors”—as opposed to some other kind of doctor, like a juris doctor or a warlock.
Here is the video, in case you are still refusing to take the L:
Conservative news outlets smugly tried to play the old “liberals are too stupid to understand the president’s words” card. Those included Breitbart, which wrote that the president didn’t really mean “inject” but a “a process—which he left ‘medical doctors’ to define—in which patients’ lungs might be cleared of the virus,” and Red State, which deployed the technique of laboriously going through the transcript and then just claiming it doesn’t mean what it clearly means because liberal media.
Insufferable right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro stated on Twitter that just because Trump was playing a “single-person game of telephone” in which he contorted a mundane idea into a “bizarre” one, it “doesn’t mean he was recommending actually injecting Clorox, people.”
Trump did what he always does: he played a single-person game of telephone, in which somebody gave him information, he processed it, and it came out of his mouth in a completely different (and bizarre) way. That doesn't mean he was recommending actually injecting Clorox, people.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 24, 2020
Trump himself, however, has now rendered these contorted defences moot. According to the president, he said what everyone thought he said—he just didn’t mean it. When asked about his disinfectant comments at a bill signing Friday afternoon, Trump told reporters that he was “asking a question sarcastically” just to “see what would happen.”
“It was said sarcastically,” claimed Trump, according to a press pool transcript. “It was put in the form of a question to a group of extraordinary hostile people. Namely, the fake news media.”
Wow. Trump is now claiming his question about injecting disinfectant was a clever ruse to own the press corps.
"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen," he said, per the pool report.
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) April 24, 2020
There are zero doctors that claim UV light exposure or injecting disinfectant is a viable treatment for the coronavirus, and you should double-check that anyone who does has not taken a life insurance policy out in your name. Tests proving the toxicity of topical concentrations of sodium hypochlorite when injected were conducted over a century ago, but presumably doctors were aware that injecting corrosive substances into the body was a bad idea well before that.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency tweeted an alert on Friday saying that it had received multiple calls about the use of disinfectants to fight coronavirus and that “under no circumstances” should anyone consider injecting or ingesting them.
ALERT????: We have received several calls regarding questions about disinfectant use and #COVID19.
This is a reminder that under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.
— Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MDMEMA) (@MDMEMA) April 24, 2020
In a desperate attempt not to be outdone by the president, Trump attorney and ambulatory wineskin Rudy Giuliani took to Fox News last night to mock the idea that health officials need to implement more contact tracing, in which health workers track down people who may have been exposed to a person with an infectious pathogen.
Rudy Giuliani mocks contact tracing by asking why we don't also do it for cancer, obesity and heart disease pic.twitter.com/QzyBMGilhv
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) April 24, 2020
Giuliani pondered why they don’t do contact tracing for cases of cancer, heart disease, or obesity—none of which are contagious.