President Donald Trump’s suggestion that doctors look into injecting disinfectant as a potential coronavirus treatment went unchallenged on Fox News Channel until the morning after he made it.
Trump said during Thursday’s briefing that “it would be interesting to check” if an injection of disinfectants could help. That prompted the makers of Lysol to warn consumers about the danger of ingesting or injecting the cleaning product into their bodies.
Trump said Friday that he was being sarcastic.
Meanwhile, The New York Times on Friday deleted a tweet that implied only “some experts” viewed it as dangerous, saying “to be clear, there is no debate on the danger.”
Fox’s response drew scrutiny because the most-watched cable news network is also the overwhelming favorite of Trump supporters. Like Trump, several Fox personalities promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, and backed off when questions were raised about the drug’s safety and effectiveness.
A Fox News representative provided examples of the network’s Friday coverage but had no additional comment when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday.
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But on Friday, Trump drew more critical response on Fox, with both Bret Baier and John Roberts openly questioning the president’s suggestion that he was being sarcastic.
Fox aired Trump’s briefing live on Thursday, with an onscreen chryon reading at one point, “Trump proposes ‘disinfection’ injection.”
The suggestion wasn’t brought up immediately after the briefing ended, and none of Fox’s prime-time stars — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — discussed in on their shows. It was given non-critical or no attention on other programming.
The next day, the tone had changed.
During a “Fox & Friends” interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz on Friday morning, anchor Steve Doocy said that “some people online have made a big deal out of the president saying they’re looking at light, whether it can do something for somebody outside the body, inside the body (or) injection of disinfectant, which is poisonous.”
Another Fox medical contributor, Dr. Nicole Saphier, tweeted that injecting bleach, inhaling disinfectants or exposing yourself to intense UV light, which the president also wondered about as a possible treatment, could “destroy the cells and organs that you might need in order to live.” She appeared on the air later Friday.
CNN did not air live the portion of Trump’s briefing where he discussed disinfectants. But in a report at 6:55 p.m. EDT, the network’s Jim Acosta said the president had put out some “very questionable ideas.”
“The president appeared to be suggesting at one point that you can inject disinfectants into people to kill the coronavirus,” Acosta said. “We want to caution everybody at home, please don’t do that, please don’t follow the president’s medical advice here.”
MSNBC did air the briefing, but didn’t interrupt the president. The proposal came up in a post-briefing interview that Brian Williams conducted with Dr. Irwin Redlener of Columbia University.
“The very fact that the president actually asked somebody about what sounded like injecting disinfectants or ... alcohol into the human body was kind of jaw-dropping,” Redlener said, adding that “I’m really hoping that people don’t take this seriously.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes later showed Trump’s remark, but quickly brushed it off. “Call me naive,” he said. “I think the American people are smarter than that. I really do.”
On the Fox Business Network, Fox News’ sister channel, Neil Cavuto, offered some pushback against Trump.
“We are not trying to bash the president here,” he said. “He said what he said. And for people, impressionable people at home to think that maybe there’s an opportunity to combat this by injecting a disinfectant into your body, we just have to call that out.”
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace said on Friday that the state of Maryland emergency hotline had received more than 100 calls from people asking whether it was safe for them to drink a disinfectant.
“It may sound crazy, but obviously people take the president’s word seriously,” he said. “The answer is no, it’s not safe.”