CNN anchor Brianna Keilar on Tuesday battled with Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh over President Donald Trump’s neverending embrace of controversial anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, lecturing Murtaugh for touting the drug as a coronavirus treatment.
Towards the end of yet another heated segment with the CNN host on the president’s coronavirus response, Murtaugh contended that Trump always listens to the advice of his public-health experts on his coronavirus task force.
Noting that Trump is apparently sidelining experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci as the president resumes his daily coronavirus briefings, Keilar observed that Trump did not appear to listen to his experts when he suggested injecting bleach to fight the virus.
“Dr. Fauci has said on many occasions that the president listened to his advice and never overrules him,” Murtaugh declared. “But let’s remember when you talk about things like this, you remember the hydroxychloroquine fiasco where the media was dead set about anyone ever talking about this because the president had expressed optimism.”
The CNN anchor interjected: “That’s not why—it’s because it kills people.”
The spokesperson continued, claiming “that study had to be withdrawn,” apparently referencing a retracted study that showed hydroxychloroquine contributed to higher mortality rates among coronavirus patients. After Murtaugh claimed other studies show that the drug can cut deaths by 50 percent—citing another disputed study—Keilar shot back that the study shows that steroids were the likely reasons COVID-19 patients recovered.
“You’re cherry-picking!” Murtaugh exclaimed.
“I’m not cherry-picking,” Keilar reported. “I talk to scientists and doctors.”
The anchor went on to point out that hydroxychloroquine studies have been canceled due to concerns over dangerous side effects, prompting Murtaugh to complain about how the media has “accused the president of murder” for promoting the drug.
“Well, you’re on here talking about hydroxychloroquine and I think you’re doing a real disservice to the health of Americans,” she declared. “I mean if you’re going to come on and talk about how this is a good treatment when doctors have said no it is not and studies have been canceled.”
Murtaugh immediately fired back that Fauci himself has said he would prescribe the drug to coronavirus patients, causing Keilar to insist that she doesn’t “hear him saying right now that people should be taking hydroxychloroquine.” The Trump spokesperson, meanwhile, demanded that Keilar check her archives.
It would appear that Murtaugh was referring to an interview Fauci had in late-March with conservative radio host Larry O’Connor shortly after hydroxychloroquine was approved for “off-label” use to treat the virus. At the time, Fauci said he would prescribe the drug “if people have no other option.”
Shortly after that interview, Fauci began warning Americans that claims of the drug’s efficacy as a coronavirus treatment were “anecdotal.” Following additional studies and the FDA cautioning against the drug’s use, Fauci explicitly came out against hydroxychloroquine, saying the “scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it.” Fauci’s stance on the drug has recently led White House officials to publicly and anonymously attack him.
After a bit more back-and-forth, which featured Murtaugh asserting the anti-malarial drug was perfectly safe for other uses because it’s “been around for 65 years,” Keilar got in the final word.
“We’re done with this conversation,” she proclaimed. “I think that you’re just really confusing the situation and it does no service to anyone’s health.”
She then turned to Dr. James Phillips of George Washington University Hospital, who pointed out that multiple clinical trials do not show any efficacy in treating coronavirus. He further called Murtaugh's comments “irresponsible” while noting that drugs that are safe for certain uses can be dangerous if patients use them in other settings.