NPR station bails on Trump briefings, citing ‘misleading information’

A member station of National Public Radio in Seattle has stopped airing the daily White House press briefings on coronavirus "due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time," according to a report by The Hill.

President Donald Trump speaks first at the briefings of the coronavirus task force, but he has faced criticism for often being on a different page than the public health officials in his administration.

“KUOW is monitoring White House briefings for the latest news on the coronavirus — and we will continue to share all news relevant to Washington State with our listeners,” the station tweeted Tuesday. “However, we will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time.”

One example of when the president’s messaging ran counter to health experts came last week, when Trump claimed the existing drug chloroquine was being “fast-tracked” by the FDA as a treatment for the virus.  While the drug has been available for decades to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis, its effectiveness against coronavirus has never been tested in the U.S., although Chinese and French researchers both completed studies earlier this year with mostly positive results.

Explore»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Trump announces ‘immediately available’ drug, but experts dispute claim

“Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that, and it’s — it was approved very, very quickly and it’s now approved by prescription,” Trump said. “Nice part is it’s been around a long time, so if things don’t go well, we know it won’t kill anyone.”

But agency Commissioner Stephen Hahn, at the same news conference, clarified the drug had not yet been approved to treat COVID-19.

It is important “not to provide false hope,” Hahn said, adding that Trump has “asked us to be aggressive” in finding a treatment.

After the March 19 news briefing, other experts were quick to disagree with the president about the effectiveness of the drug, and said the public should temper any optimism about it being a vaccine to stop the virus.

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Later news reports said China’s tests on the drug in February came back with a warning to health officials, saying it could cause sudden death if a person takes 1 gram more than the recommended dosage, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

Explore»MORE: Drug touted by Trump reportedly can cause death in small dosages 

Then, on Monday, an Arizona man died after he and his wife ingested chloroquine phosphate, which is “an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks.” The woman, who survived, said she mistakenly believed the substance to be the same pharmaceutical she heard Trump tout as a “game changer” in the fight against coronavirus.

Explore»RELATED: Husband took deadly substance after wife heard Trump tout virus treatment

NBC News reported the couple believed that taking the variant as a home remedy would prevent them from becoming infected with the virus. The network spoke to the wife, who said she learned of chloroquine’s connection to coronavirus from Trump’s televised news conference, which “was on a lot actually.”

“I had (the substance) in the house because I used to have koi fish,” she said, according to CNN. “I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?’”

Later, Arizona health officials warned the public against all makeshift therapies.

“The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, the medical director for the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

Back at the White House, the president’s statements during the press briefings have also repeatedly contradicted the opinions of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who stands at Trump’s side and typically speaks after the president.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between making something with a potential of an effect to the American people available,” Fauci said in reference to the use of chloroquine to treat the virus. “At the same time that we do it under the auspices of a protocol that would give us information to determine if it’s truly safe and truly effective.”

At a press briefing earlier this week Trump announced that clinical trials for the drug would begin soon in New York, which was confirmed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

It would typically take about 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to go through clinical trials and testing before it arrives on the market, according to reports.

The Hill spoke with White House spokesperson Judd Deere about the Seattle radio station’s decision to no longer air the daily press briefing.

“It’s not surprising, but also a failure of their duty to the American people, that some media outlets would choose to block their audiences from receiving accurate, up-to-date information on President Trump’s whole-of-government approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Deere said.

He added that “no other administration has been as transparent and as accessible as this one, and we will continue to make sure this nation hears from its leaders and top health experts during this global pandemic.”