WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is once again promoting unproven methods for combating the coronavirus and undermining the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.
Fauci has said he will “continue to do (his) job.”
Trump pushed unproven claims that an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, is an effective treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But support for the drug in the scientific and medical communities is limited.
Numerous studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently withdrew an order that allowed the drug’s use as a emergency treatment for COVID-19.
The World Health Organization also discontinued trials, stating “interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care.”
Some researchers remain interested in determining whether the drug could be of some use in fighting the virus. That includes the team behind a Henry Ford Health System study, which suggested the drug could cut the death rate of patients significantly. Other researchers questioned the study’s methodology and the relevance of its findings, and the Henry Ford team itself has said more trials will be necessary.
Despite this lack of scientific consensus or broad support, Trump returned to his earlier advocacy for hydroxychloroquine after a trip to North Carolina Monday. The president retweeted a series of tweets advocating for hydroxychloroquine, including a video of a doctor claiming to have successfully used the drug on hundreds of patients.
Trump also shared a post from the Twitter account for a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, a former top White House adviser to Trump, accusing Fauci of misleading the public over hydroxychloroquine.
Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, responded to Trump’s tweets during an appearance Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I go along with the FDA,” said Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.”
It’s not the first time Fauci has come under attack from Trump and those close to him.
The president’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, who has clashed with Fauci over hydroxychloroquine, recently penned a scathing attack on the doctor that was published by USA Today. The newspaper later said the opinion piece did not meet its standards.
In recent nationally televised interviews, Trump himself has described Fauci as “a bit of an alarmist” and accused him of making “mistakes” in his coronavirus guidance to the American people.
Asked if he can do his job when Trump continues to publicly question his credibility, Fauci said Tuesday he’ll press ahead “no matter what” because of the stakes involved.
“I don’t tweet. I don’t even read them, so I don’t really want to go there,” Fauci said. “I just will continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it’s very important. We’re in the middle of a crisis with regard to an epidemic, a pandemic. This is what I do. This is what I’ve been trained for my entire professional life and I’ll continue to do it.”
Asked about claims he’s been misleading the public, Fauci said: “I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.”
Trump retweeted a video that is circulating on social media pushing misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine. Earlier in the pandemic, Trump advocated vigorously for hydroxychloroquine to be used as a treatment, or even a preventative, telling people, “What have you got to lose?”
Trump also said he took a 14-day course of hydroxychloroquine.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube began scrubbing their sites of the video Monday because it includes misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine, and glosses over the dangers of taking it. But dozens of versions of the video remain live on their platforms, with conservative news outlets, groups and internet personalities sharing it on their pages, where users have viewed them millions of times.
One version of the video had more than 17 million views before Facebook took it down.
Facebook is trying to remove the video because it is “sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” according to Andy Stone, a spokesman for the platform.
Twitter also said it is working to remove the video. A tweet from the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., describing one version of the video as a “must watch!!!” Monday night was also taken down by the platform.
In the video, Dr. Stella Immanuel, a physician from Houston, Texas, promotes hydroxychloroquine as a sure-fire cure for the coronavirus,. She claims to have successfully treated 350 people “and counting,” including some with underlying medical conditions.
“You don’t need masks, there is a cure,” Immanuel says in the video. “You don’t need people to be locked down.” She was among physicians in a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” who made misleading claims about the virus at a news conference Monday in Washington.
Several Trump allies, groups and conservative news outlets shared the video of the event on Facebook and Twitter.
In another video shared widely on Twitter by a pro-Trump nonprofit, Immanuel claims Fauci and CNN anchors are secretly taking hydroxychloroquine and challenges them to give her a urine sample.
Trump initially flouted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing face masks, saying he wouldn’t wear one himself and refusing to don one in public.
After multiple polls showed the public disapproves of his handling of the coronavirus, Trump recently began encouraging people to wear face coverings as he tried to project a more serious tone about the virus, which has surged in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and other states.
Trump wore a face mask in public on Monday in North Carolina, just the second time he has done so during the pandemic.
Last week, Trump said the situation would probably worsen before it gets better. He also canceled GOP convention events scheduled for August in Jacksonville, Florida, citing the virus.
In the U.S., more than 4 million people have been infected by the coronavirus and the death toll is nearing 150,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Seitz reported from Chicago. Associated Press writer David Klepper in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.