On Friday, during the Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Donald Trump touted his call for the Food and Drug Administration to make chloroquine and its analogue hydroxychloroquine—anti-virals used to combat malaria—available to treat coronavirus patients. We’re seeing some “very good things” from the drugs, the president told Americans.
Rather than inquire about the FDA studies of the anti-virals, the press proved itself yet again more interested in scoring points than in accurate reporting. NBC White House Correspondent Peter Alexander led the effort, setting in motion a time-wasting spat: “Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked. Isn’t that “misrepresenting the preparedness right now” of the sale of a “not-yet-approved drug?” the NBC reporter continued.
Trump rejected Alexander’s narrative that he was selling false hope: “I am a man who comes from a very positive school. … And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will.” But if chloroquine worked, it would be a “game changer.” The president also corrected Alexander’s fake news, reminding him that chloroquine has long been approved and available for prescription for 20 years and has a solid record of safety.
Alexander continued to push, however: “So what do you say — I’ll just follow up. So, what do you say to Americans who are scared, though? I guess — nearly 200 dead; 14,000 who are sick; millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”
It was at that juncture that Trump retorted that Alexander was a “terrible reporter,” adding, “the American people are looking for answers, and they’re looking for hope…”
The MSM pounced on Trump’s response, playing the president’s punch-back as an unwarranted attack on a journalist who had posed a simple softball question concerning calming scared Americans. The media’s spin, though, ignored Alexander’s windup—a clear chastisement of the commander-in-chief for promoting a potential treatment for the coronavirus.
Alexander’s derisive questioning of Trump about the hope chloroquine offers paled, however, in comparison to the tack Bloomberg News took in response to the promising news that an anti-viral may help fight against the Wuhan coronavirus.
“The drug touted by the U.S. President Donald Trump as a possible line of treatment against the coronavirus comes with severe warnings in China and can kill in dosages as little as two grams,” Friday’s online article opened. But beyond stating the obvious—that too much of a drug can kill and that some medications are contraindicated for certain conditions—the article lacked any substance, suggesting sensationalism and slamming Trump served the only purpose for the piece.
The irony here is rich: When Trump forsook the recommendation of the World Health Organization and scientific models that suggested a travel ban from China was unnecessary, the press and politicians persecuted him. How dare the Trump administration “reject an academic model based on scientific study and evidence,” Rep. Dina Titus fumed about the travel ban in one congressional hearing. Yet Trump’s decision to close the border to China proved providential and likely saved countless American lives.
Conversely, when preliminary scientific evidence suggests the drug chloroquine provides a therapeutic benefit to people with the coronavirus, the media demands certainty and casts Trump as a snake oil salesman seeking to scam a scared populace with false promises of a cure. The left is using scientific uncertainty as a cudgel to attack Trump, striking the president no matter the decision he makes.
However, in the case of chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine, certainty must await longer and larger studies, and that is exactly what Trump jump-started, with the FDA now coordinating studies to determine the safety and efficacy of using chloroquine to treat COVID-19, as well as expediting studies of other potentially effective pharmaceuticals. Those with the coronavirus need treatment now. Given that chloroquine has long been used safely to treat malaria and other diseases, using it to treat coronavirus patients now makes eminent sense.
What doesn’t make sense is why the press is bashing Trump for his positivity on this potential treatment. It’s not like Trump is selling supplements as a cure. Rather, Trump is telling Americans exactly what other countries are telling clinicians treating those with COVID-19: that early evidence “strongly supports the current choice of hydroxychloroquine as first-line treatment.”
That was the conclusion reached by several expert medical organizations in Belgium last Thursday—the day before Trump’s press briefing—in an updated report for medical providers that analyzed other treatments used in select European countries. That report recommended Belgium followed the lead of Italy and the Netherlands, which have been treating coronavirus patients with chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine. Since then, a French teaching hospital has also announced it will also be using these anti-virals to fight the pandemic.
In addition to highlighting the various treatment protocols in other EU countries, the Belgian medical advisors found strong support for their recommendation of hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine in a recently released study completed in France by Dr. Philippe Gautret, an infectious disease doctor, and his colleagues.
The Gautret study found that after six days of treatment, “70% of hydroxychloroquine-treated patients were virologicaly cured compar[ed] with 12.5% in the control group” which did not receive the anti-viral drug. These are the results Trump cheered as a potential game-changer.
The Gautret study, however, was open-label (meaning both doctors and patients knew who had received the hydroxychloroquine), and it was not a randomized study. The study size also only included only 36 coronavirus patients. Whether the results can be replicated in a larger controlled study remain to be seen.
But what seems clear now is that President Trump is hopeful, while the media come off as rooting for a failure. That doesn’t just make the press terrible reporters—it makes them terrible Americans.