Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump for using hydroxychloroquine as a preventive against the coronavirus.
"Look, this is absolutely irresponsible," Biden, the presumptive Democratic White House candidate, said Tuesday during a Yahoo News virtual town hall. "There's no serious medical personnel out there saying to use that drug, it's counterproductive, it's not going to help.
“Just like saying maybe if you injected Clorox into your blood, it may cure you. Come on. What is he doing? What in God’s name is he doing?”
Biden was referring to comments from the president last month when he appeared to ponder, during a news briefing, of injecting disinfectants into the bloodstream as a way of combating the coronavirus. The following day, Trump said he was being "sarcastic."
Sarcasm or not, Trump’s comment prompted the parent company of Lysol and another disinfectant to warn its products should not be used as an internal treatment for the coronavirus.
Trump’s use of the anti-malarial drug also prompted criticism from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, who also called the president “morbidly obese.”
Trump announced Monday he has been taking the drug for the past "couple weeks" as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, and even said that frontline workers are doing the same, despite a warning from the FDA the drug can cause serious heart problems.
Trump said he was taking the drug to prevent himself from becoming infected and said he has not been diagnosed with the coronavirus and currently has no symptoms following a pair of infections among White House staff in the last week.
“A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it,” Trump said at the White House. “I happen to be taking it, I happen to be taking it ... I’m taking it hydroxychloroquine, right now.”
Before now Trump has emphatically promoted the controversial drug as a “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus although the drug showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals.
“I take it. I would’ve told you that three to four days ago, but we never had a chance because you never asked me the question,” Trump told reporters. “It’s been around for 40 years. A lot of doctors take it. I take it.”
On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy. A leaked recording of the hourlong call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.
CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.
A resurgent economy is seen as critical to boosting Trump’s reelection hopes and has become a growing focus of the White House Coronavirus Task Force led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, confirmed to the AP that an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway, but he declined to say when the initiative would be rolled out.
“Anybody who joins one of our coalitions is vetted,” Murtaugh said Monday. “And so quite obviously, all of our coalitions espouse policies and say things that are, of course, exactly simpatico with what the president believes. ... The president has been outspoken about the fact that he wants to get the country back open as soon as possible.”
Murtaugh said the campaign is not concerned about contradicting government experts. “Our job at the campaign is to reflect President Trump’s point of view,” Murtaugh said. “We are his campaign. There is no difference between us and him.”
On the May 11 call, Nancy Schulze, a GOP activist who is married to former Rep. Dick Schulze, R-Pennsylvania, said she had given the campaign a list of 27 doctors prepared to defend Trump’s reopening push.
“There is a coalition of doctors who are extremely pro-Trump that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on health care,” Schulze said on the call. “And we have doctors that are ... in the trenches, that are saying ‘It's time to reopen.’ ”
The idea quickly gained support from Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign senior adviser who previously served two years as the president’s director of strategic communications.
“Those are the types of guys that we should want to get out on TV and radio to help push out the message,” Schlapp said on the call.
“They’ve already been vetted. But they need to be put on the screens,” Schulze replied.
Schlapp’s husband agreed the president is getting criticized for not appearing to follow the advice of public health experts. Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference attended by conservative luminaries.
“The president’s going to get tagged by the fake news media as being irresponsible and not listening to doctors,” Matt Schlapp said on the call. “And so we have to gird his loins with a lot of other people. So I think what Nancy’s talking about ... this is the critical juncture that we highlight them.”
Matt Schlapp told the AP on Monday that he stood behind what he said on the leaked call.
“There is a big dynamic in the national media that will not give President Trump any credit,” he said. “It’s important to get the message out there that most people recover from corona. Most people are not in mortal danger with corona and that we can safely open up the economy.”
As several Republican governors moved last week to lift their state lockdowns, the National Ensemble Forecast used by the CDC to predict COVID-19 infections and deaths saw a corresponding increase. The CDC now forecasts the U.S. will exceed 100,000 deaths by June 1, a milestone that previously was not predicted to occur until late in the summer.
As of Tuesday, more than 1.5 million Americans had tested positive for COVID-19, with more than 91,000 deaths reported nationwide.