The famed fact-checking team at the Washington Post, noted for their use of the 'Pinocchios' rating system, gave the president their highest 'false' rating on Monday for his optimistic early support of hydroxychloroquine. The drug, typically prescribed for treatment of malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, has shown some promise in the treatment of symptoms caused by the Wuhan coronavirus.
President Trump, who has been consistently chided by the media for his optimistic outlook on the treatment, was accused by The Post of spreading false information for leading the American people to believe the drug was an effective therapy for the Wuhan coronavirus.
"In particular, Trump’s incorrect comments on the drugs and his role in advocating for their use, based on minimal and flimsy evidence, sets a bad example," the fact checkers wrote of Trump's enthusiasm for the drug. "His advocacy for this unproven treatment provides potentially false hope and has led to shortages for people who rely on the drugs. The president earns Four Pinocchios."
The newspaper also listed several examples in which, yes, the president did speak positively about the potential of Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the sick. At no point, however, did Trump say it would work or that it was proven, the lie he seems to be accused of.
“But I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer.”
— President Trump, at a White House news briefing, March 19, 2020
“Hydroxychloroquine — I don’t know, it’s looking like it’s having some good results. That would be a phenomenal thing.”
— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 3
“What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it.”
— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 4
“It’s this powerful drug on malaria. And there are signs that it works on this. Some very strong signs.”
— Trump, at a White House news briefing, April 5
While the fact checkers were correct in saying that there was not yet concrete proof that use of Hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19, they failed to mention that many doctors have claimed that the drug has helped their patients fight the virus. Verified claims by physicians go well beyond "anecdotal" tales of success as claimed by the Washington Post.
Doctors from across the United States and the world have hailed the combination of Hydroxychloroquine and other therapies, including common antibiotic "Z-Pack," as being undeniably effective in treating patients with the Wuhan virus.
"Every patient I've prescribed it to has been very, very ill and within 8 to 12 hours, they were basically symptom-free," Dr. Anthony Cardillo of Mend Urgent Care in Los Angeles said. "So clinically I am seeing a resolution." In an April survey of thousands of doctors across the world, nearly 40 percent said that they found hydroxychloroquine to be the “most effective therapy” for the symptoms of COVID-19.
White House Coronavirus Task Force expert Dr. Tony Fauci, while declining to say concretely that the drug was clinically effective against COVID-19 infection, said that he would take the drug himself as part of a clinical trial. The Post went on to suggest that the president's enthusiasm for the drug was causing hoarding and shortages that made it less available to people who used prescriptions for lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis. While the demand may be up, hydroxychloroquine is still not available without a prescription from a physician. It cannot be purchased in dangerous, unregulated amounts by the American public.
The newspaper's fact hunting sleuths also managed to print advice for readers about who they should listen to about which medications would be most appropriate to take when ill. Hint: it wasn't doctors.
"Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as treatments for covid-19 are not yet backed by reliable scientific evidence," the report stated. "In a pandemic, it’s important for everyone to follow the lead of scientists." Scientists, particularly scientists appearing on the pages and screens of media outlets bent on undermining the president at every turn, are far less reliable sources than a sick person's own doctor.
So, no, we aren't sure if Hydroxychloroquine, or Chloroquine, or any other drug is the miracle treatment for the Wuhan virus some hope it is. But the president's optimism in treating sick Americans should not be mistaken for telling lies for political purposes, as the Washington Post did in this fact check.
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