But clinical evidence began to accumulate suggesting not only that hydroxychloroquine wasn’t particularly effective against the coronavirus, but also that employing it might be doing more harm than good, owing to its side effects. The Food and Drug Administration, led by a Trump appointee, urged doctors and patients not to use it for COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine disappeared from Trump’s spiel practically overnight—until yesterday, when, in the middle of a meandering riff about the whistleblower Rick Bright, the president came back to it.
“And a lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out,” he said. “You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers—before you catch it. The frontline workers—many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.”
Trump didn’t specify which good things have come out (there aren’t any, really), or how many frontline workers are taking it, nor did he note that his own government has urged people not to take it as a treatment for COVID-19—much less as a precautionary measure for someone who hasn’t tested positive for the disease. He said he’d been taking it for roughly two weeks.
For anyone who treats medical evidence seriously, assesses risk, and acts prudently, Trump’s decision to take a potentially hazardous drug prophylactically is crazy. But it fits with the conservative-media ecosystem that launched Trump’s political career, and in which he continues to marinate, preferring it to hard data and unpleasant truths. Right-wing outlets are full of advertising in which program hosts tout the benefits of this or that snake-oil supplement: mysterious pills with magical oils, or supercharged-vitamin regimes. Trump, who contemplated launching a talk-radio show this spring, is emulating this. He has often treated the presidency as more like a media platform than a leadership position, and now he has the dubious product endorsements to match. (Last week, the FDA also issued a warning about an instant COVID-19 test that Trump has energetically touted.)
David A. Graham: Trump has no plan
Trump said a White House doctor had prescribed the medicine. “A White House doctor—didn’t recommend—no, I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’” A little later, the White House issued a statement in which Sean Conley, the Navy officer who serves as the president’s physician, confirmed that Trump was taking the drug and explained, through what seemed like gritted teeth, the process: “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
It’s absurd that Trump would take the drug despite the many risks when he has also declined to take more commonsense measures such as wearing a mask and gloves, as Olivia Nuzzi has noted. Part of that is selfishness: Trump is terrified about getting the disease himself, but is cavalier about other people getting it, and masks are mostly useful for protecting other people from getting infected.