WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's raising of unproven, even far-fetched ideas for fighting COVID-19 -- including his latest musing about injecting disinfectants into people -- triggered an outcry from health officials everywhere. It also highlighted his unconventional approach to the special responsibility that comes with speaking from the presidential pulpit.
Trump readily admits he's not a doctor. Yet with the reported U.S. death toll from the virus topping 50,000, he continues to use the White House podium to promote untested drugs and float his own ideas for treatment as he tries to project optimism.
“He’s like the family member around the dinner table that doesn’t have a grasp of what reality is and is willing to speak with confidence despite it," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. He said Trump likes to provocatively push the boundaries because he thinks that appeals to his political supporters.
“But in this case it’s the president of the United States and it’s dangerous," Zelizer said.
Trump's offhand comment Thursday wondering if disinfectants could be injected or ingested to fight COVID-10 got intense blowback from doctors and other health officials on Friday. It also prompted blunt warnings from the makers of popular commercial 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),” said a statement from the parent of the company that makes Lysol and Dettol, Reckitt Benckiser.
“Bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances" declared the Clorox Co.
The White House said the president's comments had been misrepresented by the media, and Trump said he had been speaking sarcastically. But a transcript of his remarks suggested otherwise.