This Thursday, President Donald Trump suggested exploring the option of injecting household disinfectants like bleach in an attempt to treat the Coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of over 50,000 Americans. Now, the following day, after steep backlash over his recklessness, Trump claimed that he was being “sarcastic.” The two options here are, one, that he really was being sarcastic and thereby trivializing a pandemic that has sickened what’s fast approaching a million Americans, and two, that he was definitely not being sarcastic, as the video footage of the moment seems to suggest, and he thereby revealed himself as even more definitively out of place in the White House.
On Friday, Trump claimed to reporters:
‘I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.’
On Fox News, @BretBaier is clearly skeptical of Trump's "I-was-being-sarcastic" excuse:
“That’s not how it looked in the briefing, and not how it came across in the briefing. What’s problematic for this President is that sometimes he goes on these riffs."
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) April 24, 2020
In fact, the previous day, he didn’t just offer a single snide remark — he repeatedly returned to the concept throughout the briefing, without ever seemingly indicating his new defense of “haha I was just joking.” He asked Coronavirus response team member Dr. Deborah Birx, for instance, if she had heard of using household disinfectants as an internal treatment for the virus — leaving her on the spot to indicate that no, she had not.
Even Fox News anchor Bret Baier noted:
‘It didn’t seem like it was coming off as sarcastic when he was talking and turning to Dr. Birx on the side.’
As for the President saying his disinfectant comments were sarcastic:
1 – He was responding to and riffing on a formal presentation from DHS
2 – He asked Dr Birx for her opinion
3 – When @PhilipRucker suggested Americans don't want rumors Trump called him "fake news"
— Chris Jansing (@ChrisJansing) April 24, 2020
Trump’s comments came after a presentation from another official in his administration about the negating effects of household disinfectants on the Coronavirus when it’s outside the body. He commented:
‘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?’
Again — nowhere in there is any indication that the president was supposedly being sarcastic. Prior to the president’s Friday allegation that he’d been being sarcastic, the White House had even issued a separate defense for Trump that didn’t even include the supposition that Trump had been any thing but completely and entirely serious.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed the media for supposedly ignoring the part of Trump’s original remarks where he said to consult with medical professionals. She said:
‘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. Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.’
If Trump was really just being sarcastic, then why wasn’t that part of the White House’s Friday morning defense? There’s an easy explanation — the White House was left scrambling after the president’s latest bizarre outburst.
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, Trump has struggled to maintain credibility for himself and his administration. He has repeatedly turned, for instance, to “quack cures” like hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that may or may not even have any effect on Coronavirus patients. He has repeatedly lashed out against those who even dare to question him.
Hint: He wasn't being sarcastic. @realDonaldTrump was being bombastic, pseudo-scientific and idiotic.
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) April 24, 2020