On Thursday, liberals thought they finally had the smoking gun, the excuse to oust President Donald Trump as mentally unfit for office. Some called him “President bleach,” claiming he had suggested people should inject bleach or Lysol into their veins to fight the coronavirus.
First came the headlines: “Experts Warn Against Inhaling Bleach After Trump Comments” (Time), “Quack-in-Chief Sees Injected Bleach, Tanning as COVID Cures” (The Intercept), “Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants” (The Washington Post), “Donald Trump’s prescription for coronavirus: quite literally toxic” (The Guardian), “‘It’s irresponsible and it’s dangerous’: Experts rip Trump’s idea of injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19” (NBC News).
Then the commentary.
“Trump unquestionably is unfit to serve as president. He endangers every American. Most directly, he endangers his supporters, many of whom either believe the virus is a hoax (prompting them to engage in dangerous behavior) or now that injecting/ingesting disinfectants is in order,” tweeted MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner.
Trump unquestionably is unfit to serve as president. He endangers every American. Most directly, he endangers his supporters, many of whom either believe the virus is a hoax (prompting them to engage in dangerous behavior) or now that injecting/ingesting disinfectants is in order https://t.co/0U7rYnqJt1
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) April 24, 2020
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden tweeted, “UV light? Injecting disinfectant?”
UV light? Injecting disinfectant?
Here’s an idea, Mr. President: more tests. Now. And protective equipment for actual medical professionals. https://t.co/Zv4Mfs2Z4a
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 24, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “The president is asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs.”
.@SpeakerPelosi: "The president is asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs and Mitch was saying that states should go bankrupt. It's a clear, visible within 24 hours of how the Republicans reject science and reject governance." pic.twitter.com/GmvcCr50nt
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 24, 2020
NeverTrumper Rick Wilson’s take? “Idiot Alchemist Donald Trump Says Sun and Bleach Will Save You.” Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle suggested Trump’s cabinet should use the 25th Amendment to oust the president as unfit for office.
“We might as well get rid of the 25th Amendment if we’re not going to get rid of President Bleach right now,” Matt O’Brien, a writer formerly with The Washington Post and The Atlantic, tweeted.
We might as well get rid of the 25th Amendment if we’re not going to get rid of President Bleach right now.
— Matt O'Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) April 24, 2020
Even celebrities like Josh Gad got involved. “If the [25th Amendment] wasn’t put in place for a President telling the American people to save themselves from a deadly virus by eating and injecting Lysol, I’m not quite sure what application it’s meant to have,” he tweeted.
If the #25thAmendment wasn’t put in place for a President telling the American people to save themselves from a deadly virus by eating and injecting Lysol, I’m not quite sure what application it’s meant to have.
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) April 24, 2020
So, is it true? Did Trump tell people to drink Lysol and inject bleach into themselves to fight coronavirus?
You be the judge. here are the remarks in question:
[Trump] 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.
Trump wasn’t telling people to drink or inject bleach — he was asking whether or not it would be possible to clean inside the body with a similar disinfectant. He also insisted, “you’re going to have to use medical doctors with” any such practice. In other words, “don’t try this at home, kids.”
Those remarks make even more sense when put in their broader context. Trump was asking William Bryan, acting under secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to clarify the results of coronavirus testing with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Bryan reported that “the virus dies quickest in the presence of direct sunlight,” noting “a very significant difference when it gets hit with UV rays.” He also reported that “bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds, and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing — just spraying it on and letting it go.”
Trump was asking questions to clarify the results of a study — a study that should give Americans hope about combatting the virus.
When Anderson Cooper interviewed FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn about Trump’s remarks, he was visibly taken aback when Hahn defended the president’s questions.
“So I think the data that were presented at the press conference today were really important in terms of what kills the virus, and I believe the president was asking a question that many Americans are asking, which is, ‘okay, this is what kills the virus, it’s a physical agent, in this case UV light. How could that be applied to kill the virus, for example, in a human being?’ We have plenty of examples in medicine where light therapy has been used for treatment of certain diseases,” Hahn said.
“So it’s a natural question that I as a doctor would have expected to hear from someone as a natural extension of the data that were presented,” the FDA commissioner added.
Cooper was speechless. Why didn’t this doctor just rip into Trump’s oh-so-dangerous questions? Didn’t he know that Trump told Americans to drink Lysol and inject bleach into their veins?
Cooper struggled to regain his footing. “Are you concerned at all, from a medical standpoint, of somebody injecting themselves with a disinfectant or hearing what the president said and trying to experiment on themselves?”
Hahn acknowledged, “We certainly wouldn’t want, as a physician, someone to take matters in their own hands. I think this is something that a patient would want to talk to their physician about.” Trump never suggested otherwise.
"I certainly wouldn't recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant," says FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, responding to President Trump suggesting the use of a disinfectant that can kill a Covid-19 infection "by injection inside." #CNNTownHall https://t.co/IlD9ZOfPy7 pic.twitter.com/jpFttUrZZE
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 24, 2020
Dilbert creator Scott Adams called Trump’s comments a national IQ test.
“Now it is true that the president was unclear, but if you understand the context, what he meant made perfect sense,” Adams explained. “So there had been some recent reports about a type of light, a far UV light … that could kill virus. We know it’s a real thing in the outside world.”
“More recently, somebody has suggested that you could put the light in a ventilator-type tube, so when you’re using the ventilator you could be simultaneously” exposed to the light, he added. “How dumb would you have to be to interpret it as, ‘he was asking the public should you inject bleach and isopropyl alcohol into your veins?'”
Let’s have a laugh about the national IQ test that half the public is failing today. With sipping. https://t.co/9dnEfQ9tY9
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) April 24, 2020
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded to the media reports with an important statement clarifying Trump’s remarks.
“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. Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” McEnany said.
While much of the media spin was egregious, it is true that Lysol warned customers not to ingest or inject its products into their veins. With the media misrepresenting Trump’s questions, it seems the company wanted to avoid any apparent liability for any stupid decisions that might occur. If anyone chooses to drink Lysol after this press conference, however, the media spin will be far more culpable than Trump.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.
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