President Trump's use of unproven drug to ward off COVID-19 prompts concerns, ridicule
At first, there were only incomprehensible murmurs as reporters processed six words uttered by President Donald Trump on Monday: "I happen to be taking it."
"It" is hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that Trump has championed as a game-changing treatment for the novel coronavirus - even though physicians say otherwise and a growing body of scientific research links the medication to increased risk of death for certain patients suffering from COVID-19.
But those dire warnings appear to have done little to change the president's opinion. On Monday, toward the end of a roundtable event with restaurant industry executives at the White House, Trump offered his strongest endorsement of the drug to date.
"I'm taking it - hydroxychloroquine," Trump said. "Right now."
He later told reporters: "I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this . . . you know, when I announced this. But, yeah, I have taken it for about a week and a half now, and I'm still here. I'm still here."
Trump's announcement that he has been taking the drug in combination with zinc for about 10 days as a preventive measure against the novel virus prompted numerous questions, reactions and concerns, including an unflattering suggestion from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that the president shouldn't be using the medicine because he is "morbidly obese."
"He's our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists," Pelosi said on CNN in a now-viral clip, "especially in his age group, and in his, shall we say, weight group: 'Morbidly obese,' they say."
It all began Monday with a question about whistleblowers, which prompted Trump to launch into a lengthy tirade that started with Ukraine and impeachment before turning to the most recent whistleblower to draw his anger: former top vaccine official Rick Bright.
"See whether or not he was a big contributor to the Democrats. See whether or not he wanted the Democrats to win," Trump told reporters, referring to Bright. "There's a lot of bad things coming out about him, but you people don't want to write the news."
Trump appeared to be angered by Bright's comments from a "60 Minutes" segment that aired Sunday. In the interview, Bright, who claims that he was retaliated against last month for raising concerns about hydroxychloroquine, continued his criticism of the federal government's handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, calling the response slow and chaotic.
On Monday, Trump pointed out that it was Bright who had signed a request to the Food and Drug Administration to issue an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
"Now, if he doesn't believe in it, why would he sign it?" Trump said, before abruptly pivoting to his startling revelation.
"A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out," Trump continued. "You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers, before you catch it. The front-line workers, many, many are taking it."
Then, the president revealed that front-line workers are not the only group of people taking the drug to protect against the virus. He is, too.
Following a brief pause as reporters digested the news, multiple voices rang out all at once with the same follow-up question: "You're taking hydroxychloroquine?"
Trump's claim unleashed a torrent of queries from the journalists in the room - and number of the same questions were repeatedly raised throughout the night as politicians, medical professionals and the general public were left puzzled over the president's decision.