Having learned nothing, Trump promotes bogus COVID 'cure' online

Trump knows what the FDA thinks about hydroxychloroquine. He just finds the conclusions of random people he finds on Twitter to be more compelling.
Image: US-HEALTH-VIRUS-MEDICINE
A pharmacy tech pours out pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020.George Frey / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump was awfully busy on Twitter last night, at one point publishing (or retweeting) 23 missives over the course of just 38 minutes.

Some, however, were more notable than others.

Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus. Late Monday night, Trump retweeted the tweet from an account with the handle “@stella_immanuel” that said: "Covid has cure. America wake up."

Yes, evidently the president saw an online video featuring Stella Immanuel, a woman who purports to be a Houston-based medical professional, making the case that hydroxychloroquine can "cure" people of COVID-19. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube agreed that the content was false and potentially dangerous misinformation, and as such, the online giants took down the video.

Trump, however, saw the content as worth promoting to the public. (For her part, Immanuel suggested Facebook may face divine retribution.)

In fact, the topic appears to be foremost on the president's mind lately. Just since Sunday, Trump has retweeted a series of bizarre items, each of which touted hydroxychloroquine as a game-changing medication. One of the missives promoted by the president claimed that the drug is being "suppressed" as part of a political conspiracy "to keep deaths high so the economy can be shut down ahead of the election."

Yes, this is clearly bonkers, but it's also the kind of thinking that the Leader of the Free World (a) finds compelling; and (b) wants to share with his 84.2 million Twitter followers.

It comes a month after the Food and Drug Administration withdrew its authorization for emergency use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. The FDA concluded that the medication carries significant health risks, and it doesn't appear to help those with the virus.

Trump knows what the FDA thinks. He just finds the conclusions of random people he finds on Twitter more compelling.

Alas, this isn't altogether new. For months, the president has promoted hydroxychloroquine in potentially dangerous ways, even as members of his own team tried to emphasize the importance of evidence, data, research, and expertise.

The list of possible explanations for Trump's recklessness is familiar: maybe he's reflexively anti-science; maybe the president has been unduly influenced by cranks; maybe there's some corruption at work; etc.

But the Washington Post published an article over the weekend that included a sentence that resonated with me: "Trump is also predisposed to magical thinking -- an unerring belief, at an almost elemental level, that he can will his goals into existence, through sheer force of personality, according to outside advisers and former White House officials."

This is a ridiculous and unsettling quality in a leader, but it also explains quite a bit about Trump's approach to, well, practically everything.

In this case, the Republican seems to realize that the pandemic is a problem, so he wants a cure. The president then finds people who tell him there's already a cure. Trump wants that to be true, so he decides that it is true, and anyone who takes issue with his magical thinking must be part of a nefarious plot.

Adults, especially those in positions of authority, are supposed to have the wherewithal to think more clearly and responsibly. Our "very stable genius" doesn't appear to care.