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The president who once stared directly into a solar eclipse is now offering researchers ideas on how to treat the coronavirus. At his Thursday press conference, President Trump suggested that using disinfectants — which are generally harmful to the human body, or poisonous if consumed in large quantities — may help patients flush the virus from their system. Trump, who has said he has a “natural ability” for understanding public health, added that injecting heat and light under the skin may be effective in countering symptoms of a virus that has already killed around 50,000 Americans. To the reporters in front of him and public-health experts to his right, Trump addressed the following tip:
So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful, light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it — and then I said suppose 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. Sounds interesting.
Then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside? Or almost a cleaning, ‘cause you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors but 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 pretty powerful.
As coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx kindly let the president know, this is not a promising treatment option. And though Trump’s Thursday proposal seems too incoherent to cause harm, in past weeks his spurious information resulted in the death of an Arizona man who drank an additive used to clean fish tanks — chloroquine phosphate — which he mistook for hydroxychloroquine, a drug formerly touted by the president.
At Thursday’s presser, Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker called Trump out on the apparent misinformation. “People tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They’re not looking for rumors.” Trump replied, “I’m the president and you’re fake news,” adding that his recommendations “are just a suggestion.” After mounting backlash Friday, he claimed that the remarks were made sarcastically.
On Friday, the British manufacturer of Lysol said its product should never be used internally. “As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” Reckitt Benckiser said in a statement to NBC News.
Trump’s former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also addressed the President’s unorthodox suggestion, telling CNBC Friday that “there’ no circumstance under which you should take a disinfectant or inject a disinfectant for the treatment of anything.”
But White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it was the media, not Trump, who was being careless. “President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” she said in a statement Friday. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”