News and Commentary

Dr. Birx On Trump’s ‘Disinfectant’ Remark: ‘He Was Still Digesting That Information,’ And ‘Likes To Talk That Through Out Loud’
Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator, speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump, left, listens during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 20, 2020.
Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Saturday, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force appeared on Fox News with host Jesse Watters to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During the segment, Birx was asked about President Trump’s remarks on Thursday regarding the potential use of light and disinfectants as a means to treat COVID-19.

Watters asked: “We heard from DHS, one of the scientists on Thursday, say that sunlight, increased temperature, and humidity could have an effect on killing the virus in the air, on surfaces, and the president’s spitballing and he’s asking questions – would it be possible to maybe target the virus through a cure using certain ingredients or using sunlight. You didn’t believe the president was putting anybody in danger, did you?”

Birx replied:

No, [when] he gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud, and really have that dialogue. And so that’s what dialogue he was having. I think he just saw the information at the time immediately before the press conference, and he was still digesting that information.

The president has always put health and safety first. I think you can see that in the way that he was supportive of slowing the spread guidelines, knew the impact that that would have on the economy, and knew clearly what impact it would have on the economy. Yet he realized that the health and safety of Americans was his number one interest and responsibility, and that’s what he did first and continues to do as we begin to open up.

Following remarks on Thursday by Bill Bryan, Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security, pertaining to the ways in which sunlight, isopropyl alcohol, and bleach appear to kill the virus on surfaces, the president approached the podium, looked over at Bryan, and said:

So, I’m going to ask 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 when we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said 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. Sounds interesting.

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’d be interesting to check that, so that – you’re going to have to use medical doctors with – but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.

Some in the media suggested that the president’s remarks could create a dangerous situation.

A Washington Post headline reads: “Trump’s disinfectant remarks were tantamount to peddling death.”

A CNET headline reads: “Trump recklessly suggests injecting disinfectant to kill coronavirus.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) even claimed during a press conference on Friday that Trump was “asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs.”

The president later claimed that he was being sarcastic, telling reporters on Friday:

I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen … I was asking a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside – but it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.

Trump spoke at length about the effects of light and disinfectants that were previously mentioned.

“But I’d like them now to look as it pertains to the human body. Not just sitting on a railing or sitting on a wall. I’d like them to look as it pertains, because maybe there’s something there,” the president said. “I’m not a doctor. They have to work with the doctors, but maybe there is something to light, and the human body, and helping people that are dying.”

Jeff Mason of Reuters later asked Trump: “But just to clarify that, sir, you’re not encouraging Americans to inject disinfectant?”

The president replied: “No, of course not. Interior wise, it was said sarcastically. It was put in the form of a question to a group of extraordinarily hostile people, namely the fake news media.”

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