The president spoke for six minutes and did not take questions from reporters afterward

By Sean Neumann
April 24, 2020 08:13 PM
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After a day of making headlines for openly disagreeing with his own health officials and making unchecked medical suggestions, Donald Trump spoke for six minutes and did not take questions from reporters at Friday’s daily coronavirus task force briefing.

The briefing lasted about 21 minutes in total, while Vice President Mike Pence and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn did most of the talking.

In his quick speech at the beginning of the briefing, Trump gave a broad overview of how states across the country are handling the coronavirus and claimed other countries around the world are looking to the U.S. as a model for how to respond to the pandemic that’s claimed over 188,000 lives across the globe.

“The whole world is watching us,” Trump, 73, said. “They’re all watching us.”

But Trump did not stick around to answer questions from members of the media following Hahn and Pence’s updates and quickly left the White House briefing room as reporters called out questions regarding his claim earlier Friday that suggestions he made the day before about injecting bleach were merely made “sarcastically.”

Trump did not respond to any of the questions called out to him as he left the briefing room.

“Wow,” PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who has covered many of the daily coronavirus briefings, tweeted afterward. “WH briefing is over. That was much shorter than usual.”

Axios reported soon after Friday’s briefing that sources signal Trump may be planning to scale back his daily coronavirus briefings going forward.

Some of Trump’s most trusted advisers “have urged him to stop doing marathon televised briefings,” Axios reports.

“I told him it’s not helping him,” one adviser to the president told Axios. “Seniors are scared. And the spectacle of him fighting with the press isn’t what people want to see.”

Donald Trump watches as Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn speaks during Friday’s coronavirus task force briefing.
Donald Trump spoke for six minutes during Friday’s notably shorter coronavirus task force briefing.

Some Republican senators voiced their own concerns to The New York Times earlier this month about Trump’s daily briefings.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Trump “sometimes drowns out his own message,” while adding “a once-a-week show” may be more effective.

Another source told Axios on Friday: “I mean, you wonder how we got to the point where you’re talking about injecting disinfectant?”

Trump faced heavy criticism following Thursday’s briefing when he appeared to suggest injecting disinfectants could be one way to cure the COVID-19 respiratory illness, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

The suggestion was immediately denounced by Trump’s own health officials, questioned by reporters, and labeled “dangerous” by doctors afterwards.

“Chlorine bleach and other disinfectants should never be ingested or injected into the body to treat infections such as COVID-19. Such a practice could be lethal or cause serious bodily harm,” the American Chemistry Council said in a statement Friday morning.

Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol, released their own statement advising people not to consume their disinfectant products.

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said. “As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines.”

Other medical experts called Trump’s suggestion “dangerous.”

“This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous,” Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, told NBC News.

Federal health officials were notably absent at Friday’s press briefing.

The health officials on Trump’s coronavirus task force, such as infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, have appeared at the briefings interchangeably but have typically been represented during the president’s daily remarks — routinely answering the president’s questions, no matter how bewildering.

Birx told Trump yesterday she hadn’t heard of heat or ultraviolet light being used to cure the coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” she said.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted Friday morning that people should ask their doctors about medical advice.

“A reminder to all Americans – PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/ medication to yourself or a loved one,” the surgeon general wrote. “Your safety is paramount, and doctors and nurses have years of training to recommend what’s safe and effective.”

At least 45,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, according to the Times, while there have been at least 891,000 confirmed cases across the country.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.