President Trump’s can-do “what the hell do we have to lose” attitude in what he calls a “war against an invisible enemy” was on full display again in a news conference on the coronavirus, COVID-19, and a drug that may be used soon to treat it, but the fireworks flew when one reporter accused the president of giving “false hope” to the American people.
What happened next might have been Trump’s finest hour.
Mind you, we’re still so early in these tectonic changes to American life – quarantines, shutdowns, social distancing – that it’s a little early to say what’s “false” and real hope at this point. But accusing the president of blowing sunshine up the collective American skirt was a little more than Trump could abide.
The issue being discussed was the drug used to treat malaria, hydroxychloroquine. It has been used to treat COVID-19 and anecdotally has shown promising results. The drug has been a favorite topic of Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson lately. He interviewed Stanford University Medical School advisor Gregory Rigano this week, who said the malaria drug was being used with great effect, according to a French study. Carlson has even reached out to the president to discuss the potentially deadly virus.
In Thursday’s coronavirus task force update, the president said he has “directed the FDA to eliminate rules and bureaucracy so work can proceed rapidly, quickly and fast. We have to remove every barrier” to begin using chloroquine. He also said there were “very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.”
Friday, reporters asked the president and the National Institute of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci about the drug. Fauci said the data on the malaria drug was only anecdotal and may not measure up to the excitement. Fauci also said that there was no evidence that it would prevent the disease, as some have suggested. Still, the trials continue on it.
Trump struck a hopeful note: “Without saying too much, I’m probably more of a fan about, maybe than anybody, but I’m a big fan. We’ll see what happens. We understand what the doctor said is 100% true, but it’s early. I’ve seen things that are, but we’ll see, we’re going to know soon. … Including safety, but you know … this has been prescribed for many years to combat malaria and it’s effective. It’s a strong drug.”
But NBC News reporter Peter Alexander accused the president of giving “false” hope about the drug, “I’m sorry but Dr. Fauci said that there is no magic drug for coronavirus right now.”
The president never represented that the therapy was a possible “magic drug.” In fact, he said he didn’t know if it would work, but that it could be a “game-changer.” President Trump and the reporter went back and forth for a few minutes about the “millions of units” of the drug that have been ordered in case it’s found helpful, but Alexander accused the president of being overly optimistic and spinning the issue.
“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope – misrepresenting…?”
Trump discussed how it was already being used to fight malaria and has been prescribed for 20 years, so there were few downsides to simply trying it:
“I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it. And we’re gonna see. We’re gonna see soon enough. And we certainly have big samples of people, when you look at the people – we have a lot of people who are in big trouble.
I’m not being overly optimistic or pessimistic. I sure as hell think we should give it a try. There’s been some interesting things happening. you know the expression, what the hell do you have to lose?”
But Alexander didn’t want the upside of what he called Trump’s “spin”:
“Two hundred dead, 14,000 sick, millions scared. What do you say to the millions who are watching right now who are scared?”
Trump: “I say you’re a terrible reporter.”
This is where most reporters will end this exchange. I urge you to read on, and also read PJM’s Megan Fox’s report on the full exchange, because this is where people demonstrate that they don’t understand Donald Trump.
I have a test for candidates and politicians. I call it the “gut test.” If you figuratively punch someone in the solar plexus, would they say they loved their country or default to disdain for it?
Now, besides his disdain for the media, which, for the most part, has been well-earned in the eyes of the Russian-Secret-Agent-in-Chief, watch where Trump defaults in his next word explosion:
“I think it’s a very nasty question and I think its a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope and you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. … That’s really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows. I’ve been right a lot. Let’s see what happens.
Trump has one goal and that’s to care for the country. It’s obvious and clear. We understand that most reporters don’t like him, but you’d think that they would at least, occasionally, cheer for the future of the country and be willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt every now and then. Especially when their track record is so poor.