US President Donald Trump yesterday sent the mainstream media and partisan social media into a Godzilla-sized tizzy after floating the idea of treating COVID-19 patients with UV lights and “disinfectants.”

The president claimed he’d gotten his information during a briefing with medical experts and said it would be “interesting” for doctors to “check that.” But it’s painfully obvious that he’s conflating actual science with online conspiracy theories.

Trump’s comments during the briefing provoked instant rebukes from the medical community at large and all but the most partisan right-wing pundits. Per the usual, the president’s defenders claimed those attacking his words were deliberately misinterpreting them.

You can judge for yourself, here’s the video:

And the transcript:

Question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said 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 gonna test that, too. Sounds interesting, 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, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number, so it will be interesting to check that. So that you’re going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds, it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see.

But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s, that’s pretty powerful.

When a reporter later challenged the president’s assertion, calling it a “rumor,” Trump responded with his typical candor:

I’m the president and you are fake news. And you know what I’ll say to you? I’ll say it very nicely. You ready? It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man. He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers. So that’s it. That’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if he does good and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned

There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’re going to need to understand where Trump‘s coming from. Best we can tell, the brilliant man in a brilliant lab is a reference to a recent study out of New Zealand. It’s called “Rapid evidence summary on SARS-CoV-2 survivorship and disinfection, and a reusable PPE protocol using a double-hit process,” and it has nothing to do with treating COVID-19 in humans.

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The study discusses two overlapping methods for disinfecting personal protective equipment and surfaces for sanitation purposes to help keep the coronavirus from spreading through contact with inanimate objects. It’s basically a fancy scientific guide on how to use UV lights and disinfectant to clean up medical gear and treatment areas.

This isn’t new information. We’ve known that UV lights and disinfectant kills viruses for a long time. They kill most living things, including humans at high enough doses — and we should point out that there’s no safely digestible amount of disinfectants for human consumption. So why on Earth did Trump feel the need to bring it up?

According to President Trump himself, he was trolling reporters:

I don’t buy it. But, let’s pretend it’s true. This means the president is spreading dangerous online conspiracy theories just to own the liberal media. Because he’s almost certainly been briefed on these kinds of “cures” before.

The US Department of Justice just cracked down on a religious cult earlier this month for selling a bleach-based “sacrament” treatment for viruses called Master Mineral Solution (MMS)  – the exact kind of ingestible cure that Trump postulated.

The White House is certainly aware that you can’t treat COVID-19 with disinfectants. In fact, earlier this week the US Poison Control center reported a spike in calls for cleaner and disinfectant “accidents” since the pandemic began.

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So where are Trump, his followers, and the occasional religious cult getting their information on MMS and/or other disinfectant-based cures? From QAnon, apparently. NBC reports:

Conspiracy theorists, including those that center around the QAnon conspiracy, have also advocated for drinking a diluted form of bleach called Medical Mineral Solution, or MMS.

QAnon adherents falsely believe Donald Trump is secretly running a military operation to rid the government of satanic, child-eating cannibals, and many QAnon followers believe those same people are responsible for the virus. Prominent QAnon accounts celebrated Trump’s apparent nod to bleach consumption or injection, with one prominent QAnon YouTuber and MMS reseller calling it “a good ‘lung cleaner’” on Thursday night.

Facebook’s been inundated with these fake “miracle cures” for COVID-19 for months now (before the pandemic, they were pushed as anti-autism elixirs) and all roads lead to a widespread troll campaign by the loosely held together group of ideological shit-posters known as QAnon (a group the president’s been tacitly supportive of for years).

A quick parse of 4chan, 8kun, and other yucky places on the internet shows there’s been a months-long campaign to push the conspiracy that big pharma and the Democrats are suppressing information on how effective disinfectants are at combating the coronavirus. Trump, accordingly, is thus rebelling against the New World Order and its leader (Bill Gates) by letting the truth slip about these secret cures.

So we have to ask ourselves, is the president of the United States using his daily pandemic briefings to troll the liberal media with dangerous QAnon conspiracies?

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No.

The reality is probably much simpler: Trump didn’t understand what the medical experts were talking about when they explained the legitimate study on disinfecting PPE.  He obviously understands the right-wing conspiracy theory that it’s okay to drink bleach-based “miracle cures,” and so he riffed on that to look and sound smart and unintentionally conflated the two.

Either way, nobody should take any form of medical advice from the President of the United States under any circumstances.

 

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