That batshit Trump statement about injecting disinfectant

President Trump actually suggested injecting disinfectant to cure coronavirus. On its face, this statement is so incendiary and dangerous that it demands dissection. What did he actually say, in what context, and what did he mean?

The president says many batshit things which, on closer examination, appear to be just rambling of some kind which, taken out of context, make him appear to be crazy, mean, or disoriented. (I’m not saying he’s not these things — I’m saying that media, pundits, and memes take the worst of these and amplify them to make him appear totally bonkers.)

The context and the statement on disinfectants

What was the context for this comment? During yesterday’s daily press briefing on the virus, Bill Bryan, a science and technology official in the Department of Homeland Security, briefed people on experiments that have shown that sunlight and disinfectants can reduce the lifespan and potency of the virus on surfaces. For example, he said “We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids and I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes. Isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing. Just bring it on and leaving it go. You rub it and it goes away even faster.” (He was not advocating putting these poisonous substances in your mouth, he was explaining how disinfectants can kill the virus carried in droplets of saliva.)

Here’s what Trump said, verbatim from a transcript by rev.com. Commentary is mine.

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, supposedly 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, right? 

No scientist has suggested putting people on tanning beds to treat coronavirus. I don’t know any way to get light inside the body. And there is no evidence that UV or other lights inside the body would kill the virus inside the body. Radiation of that kind also increases cancer risk; that’s why we wear sunscreen. There have been widespread cases in Australia and Singapore, in hot sunny climates. So this is just the President making things up based on no knowledge or evidence.

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in 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.

Disinfectant kills virus on surfaces. Such substances are poisonous, not only to viruses, but to our own cells. This is why we don’t ingest bleach or inject Lysol into ourselves. (The makers of Lysol went so far as to post information on their site explaining that you should never ingest it, because it is poisonous.)

Trump’s statement sounds loony, but when you look closely into it, it’s actually . . . just as loony as it sounds. There’s no evidence that substances that kill viruses on surfaces could be used within the body, or that such applications would be safe.

Trump’s desire to latch onto anything at all hopeful about the virus is dangerous. He has no particular knowledge that is helpful with ideas for treatment. He’s not a doctor or scientist. He’s making shit up. He doesn’t say “this works,” he says “sounds interesting,” and “it’d be interesting to check that.”

This isn’t the first time. Trump did exactly the same thing with promoting the drug hydroxychloroquine, which turned out to do no good, but increased death rates. Trump said “what have you got to lose,” but his comments not only failed to help patients, but created a shortage of the drug for those who need it, like lupus sufferers.

Leadership

So, to sum up:

  • The context is a discussion of what can kill the virus outside the body.
  • Based on what he heard in that context, Trump invented treatments no one has actually proposed.
  • What Trump suggested was more likely to kill people than work.
  • There is no reason to believe he has any knowledge in this area worth paying attention to.
  • The President of the United States is spreading made up bullshit in a crisis.

It is hardly possible to be a worse leader than this. We can have a serious discussion about how to reopen the economy and public places. We can have a serious discussion about death rates and treatments. We can discuss herd immunity. But all such discussions have to start with facts and analysis. It’s hard to see how we can take any of this seriously when the president just makes shit up based on a misunderstanding of the science.

Go ahead. Explain what I got wrong here. I’m listening . . .

Update: Trump has tried two outs on these ignorant comments. He claimed they were sarcastic. Listen to the video — there’s no hint of sarcasm. And his team claims the remarks were taken out of context. As I’ve shown in this post, the context is clear, and the meaning is exactly what you’ve been hearing. Neither explanation is credible.

(Here’s the video of what Trump said.)

15 responses to “That batshit Trump statement about injecting disinfectant

  1. “There is no reason to believe he has any knowledge in this area worth paying attention to.”

    Sadly, this fact has never stopped him before.

    I’d be scared with competent leadership in charge, never mind this.

  2. An entire cottage industry has popped-up … its job is to debunk and correct the “president” every time he speaks, in order to keep people from harming or killing themselves — or others — based on the misstatement, outright lies, misunderstandings, and idiocy he passes along every time he opens his mouth. I find this amazing. Imagine if the “corrections” portion of a newspaper was actually more important (and even life saving) than the rest of the newspaper’s core reporting.

  3. Is the President practicing medicine without a license? Oh, that’s right, he’s practicing being a president without a license.

  4. Terrific post. How can anyone disagree, and yet his minions find excuses for his irrational and dangerous behavior. Every misstatement can’t be excused as sarcasm.

  5. This man is not our collective crazy uncle in our collective kitchen, or sitting in the living room talking back to the tv. This “conjecturing,” if that’s what it is, has to stop. He’s dangerous.

    He epitomizes the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  6. “It is hardly possible to be a worse leader than this.”

    It would seem so. YET, he is still within the margin of error in polls across several battleground states.

    I just don’t know what it takes to move people, as even the reality they see with their eyes is not enough!

    Not to go full Godwin (maybe there are other atrocious leaders who actually got democratically elected first, that are as easily recognizable – Stalin and Mao were not as far as I know), but I used to think it was extraordinary times, lack of information, and poor education that allowed enough people to back Hitler in an election.

    I assumed the latter two problems were largely addressed in our society, thus inoculating us from a similar slide. After all, we have the internet (abundance of and easy access to information), an overwhelming majority of the population have Grade 12 or higher education.

    Shockingly, not so, it seems.

    Hence, I have to ironically say, thank goodness we have someone THIS incompetent at Leadership.

    Given the same scruples and psychological tendencies, nothing would (eventually) stop a competent one, and we (and the world) would be an order of magnitude (or two or three) worse off than we already are.

  7. Just to clarify on the issue of melanoma (Australia has the highest rate per capita in the world); we (Federally, not state by state) banned the use of UV tanning beds years ago as they were proven to be causal attributors to melanoma. The industry was basically shut down almost immediately. So, there’s that. Not sure if the same has occurred in other jurisdictions, but I understand that the UK, on the back of Australian clinical findings and evidence, are evaluating similar legislation.

    We here, like so many other jurisdictions, look on thinking “he can’t possibly say, or do, anything more stupid or dangerous than th…” and then it’s yet another, “here, hold my beer” moment. We weep for your sick and dying and those essential medical and affiliated service providers trying to care for them under increasingly difficult, exhausting and politically-forced motives. We wish you all the best. I fear, though, you have, from state to state, a long and difficult road ahead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.