"Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said

By Sean Neumann
April 24, 2020 03:45 PM
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Drew Angerer/Getty

President Donald Trump‘s new press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, on Friday morning blamed “the media” for misunderstanding his suggestion that maybe injecting disinfectants could kill the novel coronavirus.

This was despite what Trump, 73, said at Thursday’s White House briefing.

“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it [the virus] out in a minute. … Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” he said. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

But Trump was being taken “out of context,” his spokeswoman said Friday.

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany, 32, said in a statement. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”

At Thursday’s briefing — where the president also wondered if blasting the body with “very powerful light” could be a treatment — a reporter asked if officials would indeed look into injections of disinfectant, which Trump had said seemingly off the cuff.

William Bryan, the under secretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, gave a presentation at the beginning of the briefing about how early study results showed disinfectants, heat and sunlight can help kill the virus quicker in respiratory droplets or on surfaces such as playground equipment.

“The president mentioned the idea about cleaners — bleach and isoprophyl alcohol — there’s no scenario that could be injected into a person, is there?” ABC News’ Jon Karl asked.

“No,” Bryan responded.

“I’m here to talk about the findings that we had in the study,” he said. “We won’t do that within that lab and our lab.”

“It wouldn’t be through injection,” Trump said then, as though he had chosen the wrong word earlier when thinking out loud.

“We’re talking about through almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area,” he said. “Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. But it certainly has an effect on a stationary object.”

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing.

Elsewhere in the briefing, the president asked about the potential of using ultraviolet light as a treatment, given Bryan’s presentation.

“So I asked [Bryan] a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you [Bryan] said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, ‘Supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,’ and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.”

“We’ll get to the right folks who could,” Bryan told him.

Then Trump turned to his theories on disinfectant, noting, “You’re going to have to use medical doctors …. But it sounds interesting to me.”

Later, addressing Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus task force coordinator, Trump asked: “Deborah, have you ever heard of that, the heat and the light? Relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?”

“Not as a treatment,” Birx responded.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force coordinator, looks on as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Thursday’s daily briefing.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump told reporters on Friday that he was being sarcastic about the disinfectant and, contrary to the video of his remarks, he claimed he had actually been addressing reporters at the briefing and not health officials.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen,” he said.

However, recordings of the briefing clearly shows Trump responding to information from his health officials and at times asking them questions about treatment.

Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker asked Trump at Thursday’s briefing about his preference for publicly speculating, as he has done in the past with an anti-malarial drug whose use is also unproven.

“Respectfully sir, you’re the president and people tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do,” Rucker said. “They’re not looking for rumors.”

“Hey, Phil,” Trump responded. “I’m the president and you’re fake news.”

At least 44,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus, according to a New York Times tracker following the latest data. At least 868,000 confirmed cases have been found around the country.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency released a statement Friday morning warning its citizens not to inject bleach or other disinfectants into their body to protect from the virus.

The makers of Lysol and other cleaning products quickly put out their own warnings.

“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),” manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser said in a statement.

Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, said the agency released its warning after receiving “more than 100 calls” about the method mentioned by the president.

“I’m just here to present talent,” Trump said at Thursday’s briefing. “I’m just here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this thing.”

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.