On Friday, reporters claimed President Trump suggested Americans inject themselves with disinfectant. Shortly after, corporate media began reporting an increase in poison control center calls about bleach and other household cleaners. The only problem? The increase in calls started nearly two months before Trump’s comments.
Mainstream outlets, such as the New York Daily News, blamed the uptick in calls to the New York City Poison Control Center on President Trump’s comments about disinfectants.
NYC Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of exposure to Lysol, bleach & other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion disinfectant might be used to treat coronavirus
That’s more than double during same period in 2019, per health dept
Thankfully no hospitalizations or deaths pic.twitter.com/fVAUvGmuwM
— Anna Sanders (@AnnaESanders) April 24, 2020
According to the transcript of the press conference, Trump said the following:
THE PRESIDENT: So I asked Bill a 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 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 going to test that too. It sounds interesting.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.
THE PRESIDENT: 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 almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.
Note that Trump said “you’re going to have to use medical doctors” and didn’t suggest Americans start drinking bleach themselves. It is likely the media’s rush to make Trump look stupid spread the idea that people might ingest bleach far more than the president’s comments.
NBC News in New York ran the following headline: “NYC Poison Control Calls for Bleach, Lysol Double After Trump Disinfectant Comment.”
“In the 18 hours after the president’s suggestion during a Thursday night news conference, the city center got 30 exposure calls — nine specifically about Lysol, 10 about bleach and 11 about other household cleaners,” the article says.
“CBS Evening News” headlined their segment, “White House doing damage control after Trump’s comments about injecting disinfectant.” A CNN article with six bylined reporters blared, “Fact check: Trump dangerously suggests sunlight and ingesting disinfectants could help cure coronavirus.”
Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of reported exposures to household cleaners and disinfectants has been increasing since early March. This increase came months prior to President Trump’s comments.
Regardless, NBC Chicago blamed the poison control increase on President Trump as well. The outlet noted the poison control call spike was not unique to New York City, but was also taking place in Illinois.
Other government offices got on the fake debunking story as well, spreading the ridiculous idea of drinking Lysol even more. NPR reported on a video tweeted by the New York City mayor’s office on Friday, which encouraged New Yorkers not to inject bleach to fight coronavirus.
“Disinfectants are not intended for ingestion, either by mouth, by ears, by breathing them in, in any way, shape, or form,” said NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot.
Should you inject bleach to fight COVID-19?
Here’s @NYCHealthCommr Barbot with more. pic.twitter.com/kdgz7EC4pE
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) April 24, 2020
The NYC Health Commissioner’s message is accurate, but comes nearly two months after a spike in poison control calls.
“Words have consequences. It’s as simple as that, and words coming from the President of the United States matter,” wrote Dr. Robert Glatter at Forbes. “Calls to New York City’s Poison Control Center for exposure to specific household cleaners and disinfectants increased more than twofold after the President’s comments on Thursday.”
Forbes is correct. Words do matter. These outlets are falsely attributing to Trump’s April 24 comments a spike in poison control calls dating back to March 4.