Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday pushed back against President Donald Trump’s endorsement of a viral video featuring fringe doctors—including one who believes in demon sperm and “alien DNA”—peddling coronavirus disinformation, saying the only “recourse” is to be “very clear in presenting the scientific data that essentially contradicts that.”
Over the past couple of days, the president has repeatedly praised a group of doctors—backed by right-wing political group Tea Party Patriots—who claim controversial anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is a coronavirus “cure” and that masks are unnecessary. Video of the doctors’ “summit,” hosted by far-right digital outlet Breitbart, was eventually removed from social-media platforms for pushing dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, sparking conservative cries of censorship.
Appearing on MSNBC for the first time since April, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director was asked by host Andrea Mitchell how “damaging” Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine was, considering the FDA rescinded its emergency use for coronavirus treatment over concerns about potentially deadly side effects.
“The only thing that I can do, Andrea, is do what I’ve done all along, consistently, is that you look at the scientific data and the evidence,” Fauci replied. “And the scientific data, the cumulative data on trials, clinical trials that were valid, namely clinically trials that were randomized and controlled in the proper way, all of those trials showed consistently that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of coronavirus disease or COVID-19.”
Mitchell noted that a family friend currently in Kenya relayed to her that residents in that country are now asking “if there’s a cure” after viewing the video.
“Now I see today in the newspapers in Kenya, warnings in columns to tell people don’t believe the video,” she added. “If this can be transmitted around the country—and globally—so rapidly, don’t we have to do more to stop these dangerous conspiracies from misleading people?”
Fauci, who was roundly attacked in the video, agreed with Mitchell and said he’s been “very explicit and unambiguous” in telling the public that they need to “follow the science” with the pandemic. He also reiterated that the “cumulative scientific data” has shown that hydroxychloroquine has no efficacy in treating COVID-19.
“So when there’s a video out there from a bunch of people spouting something that isn’t true, the only recourse you have is to be very, very clear in presenting the scientific data that essentially contradicts that,” Fauci concluded, directly rebuking the video.
After supposedly adopting a new serious tone towards the virus that has killed nearly 150,000 Americans, the president repeatedly shared the video and criticism of Fauci on Twitter Monday night. When confronted Tuesday with the bizarre claims made by Dr. Stella Immanuel, one of the doctors in the video, Trump said she was “very impressive” and “spectacular.”
“I don't know which country she comes from, but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her,” the president added before storming out of his coronavirus press briefing.