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Image: Dr. Deborah Birx listens to President Trump in the White House briefing room.
President Donald Trump holds a press conference about the coronavirus at the White House in Washington on April 13, 2020. At left is Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator.Alex Brandon / AP file

Exactly one year later: Trump, COVID, and injecting disinfectants

The fact that a Florida family was indicted for selling bleach as a COVID cure, on the anniversary of Trump's inject-disinfectant remarks, is amazing.


Over the course of 2020, Donald Trump's rhetoric on the pandemic was exhausting. Between the lies, the false promises, the conspiracy theories, the irresponsible downplaying, and the self-congratulatory nonsense, the way in which the then-president talked about the COVID crisis made the White House's response worse.

But it was exactly one year ago today when the Republican shared some thoughts that were truly extraordinary, even for Trump. On April 23, 2020, the then-president stood in the White House press briefing room and raised the prospect of an entirely new kind of treatment for the virus.

"Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light -- and I think you said that hasn't been checked but we'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. Sounds interesting. And then I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside -- or almost a cleaning. As you see it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.... It sounds interesting to me. So we'll see."

It's still hard to believe this actually happened. This was not a weird dream; Americans actually had a president who said these things in the midst of a serious public-health crisis. The brief, impromptu comments, spanning only about 150 words, quickly became the quintessential moment of Team Trump's COVID response, capturing the president's ineptitude and the eagerness with which he embraced nonsense.

It was tempting, of course, to laugh at Trump's ridiculousness, but in the immediate aftermath of the press briefing, states' emergency-management offices had to remind people not to inject disinfectants, and Lysol's manufacturer felt the need to issue a similar reminder to the public.

Taking note of the anniversary, Politico reported today, "It was a watershed moment, soon to become iconic in the annals of presidential briefings. It arguably changed the course of political history."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, recently told ABC News, "I still think about it every day."

But while recognizing the significance of this, let's also not overlook the fact that the Justice Department issued this press statement earlier today:

A federal grand jury in Miami has returned an indictment charging a Florida man -- Mark Grenon, 62 -- and his three sons -- Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32 -- with fraudulently marketing and selling "Miracle Mineral Solution," a toxic industrial bleach, as a cure for COVID-19, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, autism, malaria, hepatitis, Parkinson's, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and other serious medical conditions, and with defying federal court orders. Jonathan and Jordan Grenon were arrested last summer on related charges based on a criminal complaint filed by Miami federal prosecutors.

Yes, that's right, on the first anniversary of Trump reflecting on treating COVID with disinfectants, the Justice Department announced a new criminal indictment against a family in -- where else? -- Florida, which has allegedly been selling bleach as a COVID-19 cure.

The news gods are not without a sense of humor.