Trump: My Disinfectant Comments Were Sarcastic

Says he asked about bizarre coronavirus treatment 'just to see what would happen'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2020 9:32 AM CDT
Updated Apr 24, 2020 1:02 PM CDT
Lysol Issues a Warning After Trump Briefing
President Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Thursday.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

All kinds of headlines about bleach and disinfectants were floating around Friday, all stemming from President Trump's coronavirus briefing on Thursday. After science adviser William Bryan talked about how UV rays and disinfectants such as bleach and isopropyl alcohol seemed to work against COVID-19 in the lab, Trump mused about applying the findings to human subjects. That set off a huge uproar, with health experts emphatically warning people against home remedies. Now, however, Trump said he was just being sarcastic. Coverage, including the original comments:

  • New comments: "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen," Trump told reporters in an Oval Office Friday, reports the Hill. Critics including Brett Baier of Fox News said it didn't seem like Trump was being sarcastic at the time.
  • How this started: At Thursday's briefing, Bryan talked about treatments under study in the lab, and he noted that UV rays seem to shorten the virus' life, per the transcript at Bryan added that in these lab experiments, "bleach will kill the virus in five minutes (and) isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds."
  • Trump's original comments: After Bryan spoke, the president took to the microphone. (Watch here.) "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? 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."

  • Not injections: Later, a reporter asked Bryan about bleach and isopropyl alcohol and said, "There’s no scenario where that could be injected into a person, is there?" Bryan said no, adding that he was just talking about lab tests on the virus. Trump then said, per the transcript: "It wouldn’t be through injections, [inaudible] almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object."
  • Lysol: For the record, the maker of Lysol on Friday issued a warning, "As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)," said the statement from Reckitt Benckiser, per the AP.
  • The headlines: They came fast and furious after Trump's briefing. A CNN analysis says Trump is "peddling dangerous cures," the Intercept anointed him "quack-in-chief," and the Daily Beast had this: "Idiot Alchemist Donald Trump Says Sun and Bleach Will Save You." The Drudge Report, which has been on the outs with the president, was running a bottle of Clorox as its main image through Friday morning, over the headline, "TRUMP: INJECT DISINFECTANTS INTO BODY?"
  • Pushback: At Breitbart News, Joel B. Pollak writes that Trump "is being quoted out of context—as usual—by left-wingers on social media who are accusing him of suggesting injecting people with disinfectant as a way of curing coronavirus infections." He adds that "at no time did Trump actually propose injecting patients with disinfectant; he deferred to 'medical doctors' to figure out how to apply" the research.
  • Ditto: The White House also took the media to task Friday morning, reports Mediaite. “President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”
  • It's a thing: Outlets such as Page Six were noting that the Cristina Cuomo, wife of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, has been touting bleach as one of the unconventional methods she used to fight her own COVID-19 infection. At her health blog the Purist she writes about adding a half-cup of Clorox to her bath "to combat the radiation and metals in my system and oxygenate it." Bleach is also big in the discredited "Miracle Mineral Solution" movement, which was happy with Trump's comments, notes Business Insider.
  • Final warning: The Washington Post asked Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, to weigh in on this talk of using disinfectants as a treatment. His answer was blunt: "My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea. This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous."
(More President Trump stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.