When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about what the American people should know about disinfectants and the human body, she instead defended the president’s tendency to meditate aloud on his ideas as he deals with new information, and suggested that the media had missed the point of the White House presentation.
Birx noted that when Trump made the remark on Thursday, he was in “dialogue” with William Bryan, the acting chief of science at the Department of Homeland Security, about a study detailing the use of light and disinfectants to help kill coronavirus on surfaces.
“I think I made it clear that it was a daydream, as you described it,” Birx told Tapper on Sunday on “State of the Union”, avoiding wondering if she was embarrassed about having to spend time discussing the president’s comments, criticizing “the news cycle”.
Bruised by the avalanche of negative coverage and the reprimands of public health experts, Trump withdrew into the recesses of the White House this weekend, only appearing on Twitter where he broadcast his complaints about its media coverage. He did not answer any questions during his briefing on Friday and, for the past several weeks, there has been no press conference at the White House on Saturday and none are scheduled for Sunday.
Absence of President on Podium May Be Best Remedy For Americans At A Time When Some States Are Starting To Reopen And Residents Are Seeking Advice From Scientists And Medical Experts On How Safe It Is To Venture out of their homes.
For weeks, when aides and allies urged Trump to stop giving daily briefings, the president requisitioned the microphone, providing self-congratulatory assessments of his administration’s handling of the inaccurate pandemic. He played down the desperate shortages of personal protective equipment and Covid-19 test equipment. He denounced state officials who do not seem sufficiently grateful to him and criticized the journalists for “unpleasant questions” and unflattering media coverage.
Instead of focusing on the scientific advice of doctors and experts, under Trump’s control, they were more political than informative, often taking the braggadocios tone of the president’s rallies. The imbalance of self-promotion and fact has raised concerns among Democrats that former Vice President Joe Biden, his alleged Democratic rival, does not have an equivalent platform.
As Trump shares the microphone with medical advisers like Birx, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the President’s own statements about the podium on coronavirus have been sown with lies and d ‘errors, often fueling confusion must be clarified later by his team.
Trump veered into dangerous territory on Thursday when he wondered if it would be possible to kill the coronavirus by diffusing light into the body or through a dose of disinfectant.
The aides were clearly concerned that contradicting him could lead to their exit during a pandemic, so no one corrected him at that time. Thursday in the middle of Trump’s tangent about the disinfectant, Birx stared at the ground, briefly telling him when he asked him, that she had never heard of the sun or heat as a treatment for coronaviruses.
The consequences have been severe: in recent days, state officials and disinfectant manufacturers have repeatedly warned Americans of the dangers of using chemicals or household cleaners in any way other than which is printed on the label.
In a Saturday afternoon briefing, Illinois director of public health Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported a significant increase in calls for poison control, including, she said , someone who tried using a detergent solution such as a sinus rinse, and someone who gargled with bleach. and a mixture of mouthwash to kill the germs.
“It is dangerous to inject, ingest and sniff household cleaners,” Ezike warned. “It is not advised and can be fatal. “
Trump’s controversial comments offered an opening for Biden, who weighed in on Twitter: “I can’t believe I have to say this,” Biden tweeted Friday, but please don’t drink bleach. . “
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi on Sunday compared the president’s suggestion to “embalming”, telling Tapper about CNN’s “state of the union”. “We spend a lot of time on what the president said, when and – disinfectant in the body. Do you know what they call it? They call it embalming. This is the medical term. “
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, told CBS on “Face the Nation” on Sunday that his state’s poison control hotline had now received “hundreds of calls” from people “asking him to inject or to ingest these disinfectants. “
“I think it is essential that the President of the United States – when people are really scared and in the midst of this global pandemic – that, at these press conferences, we really reveal the facts,” Hogan told CBS.
Changing explanations from the White House
Amidst the White House’s changing explanations for the background to Trump’s remarks at Thursday’s briefing, the president hinted on Saturday that his days on the briefing room’s podium could come to an end.
In a tweet, Trump questioned the value of holding press briefings in the White House, saying they are “not worth the time and effort” if the media will just ask “nothing but hostile questions.” Trump also noted “record ratings” for his appearances.
In a later tweet, he tried to rewrite the narrative of his own early skepticism about the origins and potential spread of Covid-19.
“I never said that the pandemic was a hoax! Who would say such a thing? Trump tweeted on Saturday. “I said that the Democrats doing nothing with their mainstream media partners are the hoax. They were called and embarrassed about it, even admitting that they were wrong, but continue to spread the lie! “
As CNN reported, Trump used the term hoax when he compared Democratic criticism of the administration’s response to the virus to their efforts to remove it: “This is their new hoax,” he said. he said at a rally on February 28 in South Carolina.
Trump continued to try to blame journalists for misunderstanding over the weekend.
At a signing ceremony for the bill on Friday at the Oval Office, Trump insisted that he had made sarcastic comments to reporters, even though there was no trace of sarcasm in his Thursday delivery .
“I asked the journalists in the room a very sarcastic question about the indoor disinfectant. But it kills him and it kills him on the hands, and it would improve things. This was done in the form of a sarcastic question to reporters, “said Trump on Friday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the president’s remarks were simply taken out of context.
Trump continued the debate on Saturday, curiously arguing that journalists had recounted his comings and goings with Birx on the effect of heat, sun and light on the coronavirus, claiming that he was speaking to “our laboratory expert, not Deborah, about sunlight, etc. and coronavirus. “
Shortly before Trump’s remarks Thursday, he had been briefed by Bryan, who had presented the results of a study on whether the spread of the coronavirus could be slowed by warmer weather.
Bryan summed up the study in the briefing room, also explaining how ultraviolet rays and disinfectants, including bleach and alcohol, can shorten the lifespan of the virus. (Bryan has no medical training and is not a scientist.)
This seemed to carry Trump’s current of thought to the notion that the disinfectant could be used inside the body: “I see the disinfectant, where he drops it in a minute. One minute. Is there a way to do something like that, by injecting inside or almost cleaning? Trump said Thursday during the briefing. “Because you see that it gets into the lungs and makes a huge number on the lungs. “
Birx said on Sunday, “State of the Union”, that the president “understood” after turning to her during Thursday’s briefing when asked about the impact of light and heat on the coronavirus, ” that he was not [used] as a treatment. “
She said what was lost in the debate was that “study is of crucial importance to the American people.”
“We had a study from MIT just a few weeks ago which suggests that when people speak and sing, the aerosolized virus could move on. What this study showed for the first time is that sunlight can affect this aerosolization outdoors, “Birx told Tapper.
“That’s why we asked them to do it. We are trying to understand why people should wear masks, ”added Birx. “You wear masks because you could have an asymptomatic infection and you will decrease your transmission to others. I think the half-life in the sun is very important as we move forward to really understand how we can effectively create decontaminations in different environments. »»
McEnany pushed back journalists’ questions on Saturday whether the White House was sending mixed messages about the background to the president’s suggestion.
“Taking a sarcastic comment and running with negative headlines is the definition of taking something out of context, so I think these responses are very synchronized,” she told reporters at the White House.
McEnany will not say whether the president plans to recall his participation in the Coronavirus task force briefings after he left the briefing room abruptly on Friday.
“I leave that to the president,” she said. “It is entirely his decision, but I think the president is at his best when he speaks directly to the American people. “
When asked why he did not answer questions on Friday, she said that “the president has answered questions for 49 briefings since the end of February”.
This story has been updated with additional comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Dr. Deborah Birx on “The State of the Union”, and comments from Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan on “Face the Nation” “
Aaron Pellish, Alison Main and Chuck Johnston of CNN contributed to this report.