The Trump campaign tells PEOPLE the doctors it's recruiting won't be paid to promote the president's beliefs
Donald Trump
President Donald Trump
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign is rounding up "extremely pro-Trump" doctors to appear on television and elsewhere in the media, unpaid, in the coming months to promote the president's push to reopen the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, despite health officials' warnings that doing so could fuel another COVID-19 outbreak and cost lives.

The Associated Press first reported Tuesday that Republican political operatives raised the idea on a call with a senior member of the Trump campaign earlier this month, per a leaked recording of the conversation. The president's re-election campaign confirmed the report with PEOPLE.

"It shouldn’t be surprising that the Trump campaign gathers together people who agree with President Trump," Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Trump's campaign, tells PEOPLE. "The purpose of campaign coalitions is to amplify and promote the President’s accomplishments and point of view."

The AP reports that on the leaked recording of the May 11 conference call between the Trump campaign and the conservative advocacy group CNP Action, Nancy Schulze, a Republican political activist, said, "There is a coalition of doctors who are extremely pro-Trump that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on health care."

"And we have doctors that are … in the trenches, that are saying ‘It’s time to reopen.’ ”

The idea was quickly embraced by Mercedes Schlapp, a senior advisor on the Trump campaign, who said that "those are the types of guys that we should want to get out on TV and radio to help push out the message."

“They’ve already been vetted," Schulze reportedly replied, "but they need to be put on the screens."

Trump — who has hinged his presidential accomplishments on a strong U.S. economy before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown business and sunk the markets — has continuously pushed for the U.S. to reopen and send workers back to their jobs as soon as possible.

At the same time, federal health officials have countered the president's desire to reopen the country — a decision of individual states — and have warned that doing so too quickly could cause another spike in the infection rates.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the nation's leading infectious disease expert and the primary medical voice on President Trump's coronavirus task force, said earlier this month that this could have dire consequences.

“My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that then turn into outbreaks,” Fauci, 79, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on May 12. “The consequences could be really serious.”

Health experts are now warning that the consequences of doctors signal-boosting the president's unfounded medical advice could be serious, as well.

“I find it totally irresponsible to have physicians who are touting some information that’s not anchored in evidence and not anchored in science,” Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told the AP. “What often creates confusion is the many voices that are out there, and many of those voices do have a political interest, which is the hugely dangerous situation we are at now.”

El-Sadr told the outlet that the Trump campaign recruiting doctors to promote the president's unprofessional medical advice is "quite alarming.”

coronavirus briefing
President Donald Trump looks on as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, addresses the media during a coronavirus task force briefing on April 10.
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock
Protesters rally, to demand an end to the state wide 'stay at home advisory' and the new law enforcing everyone to wear a mask in public, outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts on May 4, 2020
Protesters rally to demand an end to the statewide 'stay at home advisory' and the new law enforcing everyone to wear a mask in public, outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston on May 4, 2020
| Credit: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty

The Trump campaign tells PEOPLE that its purpose is to echo and reflect the president's points of view.

A spokesperson for the campaign did not respond to PEOPLE's further inquiry about whether the doctors that the campaign is recruiting would also back up the president's baseless promotion of hydroxychloroquine, an untested and potentially dangerous anti-malarial drug that Trump claimed he's taking as a preventative treatment for the coronavirus.

"I'm not a doctor," Trump, 73, told reporters during an April 23 press conference. Simultaneously, however, the president has repeatedly promoted the unproven hydroxychloroquine as an effective medicine.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found the drug is ineffective against COVID-19 and leads to a higher rate of mortality among patients with the coronavirus.

Trump dismissed the VA study an "enemy statement" by anti-Trump actors. The VA is part of the federal government, which Trump is partly in charge of managing.

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