Trump goes full Jonestown


The darkly tongue-in-cheek Darwin Awards periodically disabuse us of the notion that nobody’s stupid enough to, say, consider injecting themselves with disinfectant to cure coronavirus.

That is, no one except, perhaps, Donald J. Trump.

The president said at Thursday’s White House coronavirus briefing that it would be “interesting” to investigate the possibility that disinfectant cleansers, which kill viruses quickly on surfaces, might have the same effect on viruses infecting the human body — if we could just get the stuff inside us. Volunteers, anyone?

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute,” said Trump. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So, it’d be interesting to check that.”

I wouldn’t doubt that a few 6-year-olds entertained the same thoughts as Trump, but it’s safe to assume that no one who routinely cleans houses is going to try out the president’s “interesting” idea. In a related matter, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning on April 24 against non-hospital uses of hydroxychloroquines as a COVID-19 treatment, which Trump has also touted, saying the drug can lead to death.

Given Trump’s keen interest in pursuing new cures, perhaps he would consider participating in an experiment to determine the effectiveness of cleansers in eradicating COVID-19 in the human body. Of course, first, he’d have to willingly expose himself to infection, as he seems to think other Americans should by encouraging governors to reopen their states. Or, rather than take the risky path of injecting bleach, he might just take a warm bath in the stuff.

I’m kidding, of course. But, guess who wasn’t? The president of the United States.

Yes, Trump tried to backpedal on April 24, saying he was being sarcastic. But anyone watching the briefing could plainly see that he was serious. Enough so that the company that owns Lysol disinfectant issued a statement warning against using its product as Trump suggested. Doctors across media platforms spoke forcefully against the president’s suggestion. As pulmonologist and global health expert Vin Gupta put it, ingesting a cleansing product is “a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves.”

Trump, heretofore a mere snake-oil salesman, was suddenly peddling death to the credulous. He obviously doesn’t intend for anyone to drink bleach, but should he need reminding, more than 50,000 Americans have died of the virus. The living need to be told how to avoid getting sick, not some quackery from a reality-TV-star-cum-president.

In another exploration of his imagination, Trump wondered whether “ultraviolet or just a very powerful light” — again, inside the body — might destroy the virus. Rather than call him out on the spot, as one might hope, task force coordinator Deborah Birx wanly replied that she wasn’t familiar with any research that used light for treatment.

Trump was basing his scientificky daydreams on “emerging results” at the Department of Homeland Security that suggest the coronavirus may not thrive in warmer, more-humid environments. Even though his chief virologist, Anthony Fauci, has cast doubt on such speculative findings, Trump’s unstable genius would not be thwarted.

“Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,” Trump said, adding it “sounds interesting.”

At least you can’t say he’s incurious. Perhaps Trump was imagining Obi-Wan Kenobi destroying the virus with his light saber. Or Dr. McCoy’s Star Trek tricoder. McCoy’s gizmo could only diagnose, but, surely we’re only a weekend away from a disease zapper. They kill bugs, don’t they?

Whilst we wait, the warmer, more-humid Georgia may soon provide answers. Gov. Brian Kemp moved to reopen close-contact businesses on April 24, inviting citizens to go bowling, get tattoos and renew their highlights. By his decision, which, wonderingly, Trump criticized, Kemp is essentially volunteering his state to serve as the nation’s petri dish.

Public health experts have warned that Georgia, with more than 800 deaths so far and a growing number of new cases, is likely to see fatalities accelerate if people take up Kemp’s offer. What’s a few thousand deaths in the battle to save the economy?

As the national death toll continues climbing, we can be certain that enough people will die without the help of Trump’s bad policy and worse advice. For his idiotic remarks, he should be widely condemned not just by his political foes, but by everyone who cares about the nation’s health — and I don’t just mean its infection rates. Darwin is taking names.

By Josh Bovee

Leave a Reply