Yesterday marked a turning point in the president’s relationship with misinformation. Trump said he is taking hydroxychloroquine, a medication that’s been touted by conservative media outlets as a treatment for COVID-19, even though his own FDA warns against its use for that purpose outside of hospital settings or clinical trials.
While it’s not news that the president is amplifying misinformation about the outbreak—we’ve been tracking lies and untruths from him here—the admission that he is ingesting a drug based on it points to bigger questions about the president’s media diet and how his immersion in such conversations is influencing his response to the outbreak.
David A. Graham, a chronicler of all things Trump, pulls no punches: “Trump’s announcement that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine echoes his handling of the pandemic: poisoning the entire body politic with chaos, misinformation, and distrust.”
“I used to worry that Trump’s serial mendacity might harm the nation,” Conor Friedersdorf writes. “Now I worry even more that he isn’t lying, but rather lacks the capacity to see errors in the most obvious falsehoods.”
My colleague James Hamblin wrote this primer back in April. The short version: A curious observation in a French medical journal got global attention after President Trump jumped to recommending that Americans try the drug. Back then, James projected that hydroxychloroquine was no miracle and should not be tried outside of a clinical trial. Studies have since showed no benefit against COVID-19.