MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has demanded that networks stop airing White House updates about the coronavirus pandemic, excoriating President Donald Trump for making optimistic promises about an unproven drug to treat the infection.
‘I know we ought to be getting used to this kind of thing by now, but I’m not,’ Maddow said on her show Friday night. ‘President Trump today, again, just flat-out wrong in public about this malaria drug that has gotten stuck in his mind, quite some distance from the facts.’
Maddow was referring to Trump’s sweeping claims about a malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine, which is being investigated as a potential treatment for coronavirus patients.
While Trump has boasted that the drug is ‘very powerful’ and ‘could be a game changer,’ the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made clear on Friday that there is not enough evidence yet to show that it is effective.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has demanded that networks stop airing White House updates about the coronavirus pandemic, excoriating President Donald Trump
Trump has boasted that the drug is ‘very powerful’ and ‘could be a game changer,’ but the government’s top infectious disease expert says it has never been properly tested
‘But the president loves saying things like, you know, ‘There’s a drug we’ve got and it’s very effective. It’s approved already! Everybody’s gonna get it’,’ Maddow said.
She continued: ‘He loves saying things like that because that would be a lovely thing to be able to tell people, unless of course that’s not true in which case telling people a fairytale like that is cruel and harmful and needlessly diverting and wildly irresponsible from anyone in any leadership role.’
‘It’s actually wildly irresponsible if somebody said that to you from a bar stool, if any of us could go to bars anymore, but to get that from somebody at the presidential podium? Nevertheless, he keeps doing it,’ she said.
‘There is a clear pattern here in this crisis of the president promising stuff that he knows America would love to hear but it’s not true. And even stuff that he’s saying that he will do that the federal government will do, he’s not doing,’ Maddow told her viewers.
‘I feel like we should innoculate ourselves against the harmful impact of these ongoing false promises and false statements by the president by recognizing that when he is talking about the coronavirus epidemic, more often than not, he is lying.,’ she continued.
‘But the president loves saying things like, you know, ‘There’s a drug we’ve got and it’s very effective. It’s approved already! Everybody’s gonna get it’,’ Maddow said
‘Even when he’s talking about what he has done or what he will do, he is consistently lying and giving you happy talk that is stuff that the federal government isn’t actually doing. And it’s making people around the country count on the fact that the federal government is doing that stuff when they’re not.’
She continued, ‘And so the sooner we come to terms with that, I think the better for all of us. If it were up to me, and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV. Not out of spite but because it’s misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape but if he keeps lying like this every day on stuff this important, all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s gonna cost lives.’
On Thursday, Trump made a series of wildly optimistic claims about hydroxychloroquine, saying ‘This could be a tremendous breakthrough. Tremendous breakthrough … We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately … There’s tremendous promise.’
But on Friday, when Fauci was present at his press conference, the infectious disease expert was blunt in refuting unsubstantiated claims about the drug.
‘No,’ he said when asked if the drug could prevent infection by coronavirus. ‘The answer … is no.
‘The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal,’ Fauci added firmly. ‘It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.’
He went on to explain that the Food and Drug Administration is looking for a way to make the drug available for emergency use, but in a manner that gives the government data about whether it’s safe and effective.
Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH and in more than 30 years has handled HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and now the new coronavirus.
On Friday, when Fauci (center) was present at his press conference, the infectious disease expert was blunt in refuting unsubstantiated claims about the drug
Currently, there is no medicine specifically approved for treating COVID-19.
But Trump stuck to what his gut was telling him. As the two men took turns at the podium, Trump said he disagreed with the notion that there is no magic drug for the coronavirus disease. ‘Maybe and maybe not, ‘ he said. ‘Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. We have to see.’
He struck an upbeat note, while trying not to directly challenge Fauci.
‘I think without seeing too much, I’m probably more of a fan of that,’ he said, referring to the malaria drug. ‘And we all understand what the doctor said is 100% correct.’
Then the president added, ‘It’s a strong drug. So, we’ll see.’
Hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug – chloroquine – are sold around the world under a variety of brand and generic names. They can be prescribed off-label by doctors in the United States. They may interfere with the coronavirus being able to enter cells, and some scientists have reported possible encouraging signs in test-tube and other small studies.
Other scientists are skeptical that those promising test-tube results will translate to benefits for patients.
Fauci has a track record of being the fact-based counterpoint to the Trump administration’s upbeat assessments of the coronavirus outbreak. For much longer than that, he’s specialized in the same calm and persistent repetition of the information he thinks his audience – whether the public or physicians – needs to know.
Weeks ago, after Fauci said that even with all deliberate speed a vaccine could take a year to 18 months, Trump told a political rally one could be ready ‘relatively soon.’
Trump addresses the Trump administration’s daily coronavirus task force briefing on Friday as Fauci stands by on the right
Researchers at the University of Minnesota Genomics Centerhave begun a trial to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of coronavirus
Kylene Karnuth, a clinical lab scientist, works with coronavirus samples as researchers begin a trial to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis
As administration officials repeatedly assured the public that coronavirus tests were rapidly becoming available, Fauci at a congressional hearing said the lack of widespread testing was ‘a failing’ of the system.
Although Fauci has publicly supported Trump’s travel restrictions to try to keep the virus out, he warned the worst was coming even as Trump suggested the crisis was under good control.
Rather than fighting with Trump, he stepped up to the podium Friday to say he´s not ruling the drug out, but that it must be studied before making any promises.
Trump wasn’t dialing back his enthusiasm.
‘Look, it may work and it may not work and I agree with the doctor,’ Trump said. ‘I feel good about it. That’s all it is. Just a feeling. You know, I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it … You’re going to see soon enough.’
The two even debated the safety of the malaria drug, with Trump saying it has a proven record and Fauci cautioning that must be validated again for coronavirus disease.
In the end, the scientist seemed to be trying to find a way to avoid a direct confrontation with the president.
‘You know, I´m not dismissing it at all, and I hope that that interpretation wasn´t widespread,’ Fauci said later on Fox News. ‘What I said is that we don´t have definitive proof that it works.’
It wasn’t just Trump with whom Fauci took issue.
In answer to a reporter´s question at the White House, he called a suggestion by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that the administration was overreacting, given that thousands die on the highways every year, a ‘false equivalency.’
He added: ‘I don´t think with any moral conscience you can say, `Why don’t we just let it rip and happen and let X percent of the people die?”
And asked about economist Kevin Hassett’s suggestion that all Americans be tested so that uninfected people can get back to work, Fauci said, ‘I don’t connect the dots there.’ It will take social distancing to slow the spread.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.