To dismiss V.A. research, Trump peddles odd theory

There's no evidence of V.A. researchers rigging a recent study to undermine Trump, but that didn't stop the president from peddling the allegation anyway.
Image: VA Building, Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington on June 21, 2013.Charles Dharapak / AP file
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By Steve Benen

After claiming that he's been taking hydroxychloroquine, regardless of the risks, Donald Trump was asked for evidence that the untested medication has a preventative effect for those concerned about the coronavirus. The president replied that some unnamed people said "positive" things to him over the phone, which was all the evidence he needed.

But as part of the same response, Trump acknowledged that researchers found some discouraging results, though he's not inclined to believe them. From the White House transcript:

"The only negative I've heard was the study where they gave it -- was it the VA? With, you know, people that aren't big Trump fans gave it...."

Whether the president understands this or not, there have been several recent reports pointing to the fact that this medication, at best, is useless when it comes to treating or preventing COVID-19. At worst, if used improperly by people who don't need it, hydroxychloroquine can apparently be quite dangerous.

It's what the Journal of the American Medical Association found. And what the New England Journal of Medicine found. In recent weeks, we've seen similar assessments from the NIH and the FDA, the latter of which pointed to risks of serious side effects, "including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage."

In other words, when Trump says he's only aware of one "negative" study, it may be because he's struggling to keep up with current events.

But perhaps more important is the president's suggestion of some kind of conspiracy theory at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

About a month ago, the Associated Press reported that U.S. veterans hospitals did a large analysis, treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine. The research not only found no medicinal benefit, it also saw higher death rates among those taking the drug.

It'd be one thing if Trump dismissed the findings, preferring instead to listen to unidentified telephone pals. But note that the president went quite a bit further yesterday, suggesting that the V.A. research was conducted by scientists who "aren't big Trump fans."

In other words, the president believes he may have uncovered yet another conspiracy, this one involving unnamed V.A. scientists whom the president believes are not to be trusted.

In case this isn't obvious, there is no evidence of V.A. researchers rigging the recent study as part of a political scheme to undermine Donald Trump, but that didn't stop the president from peddling the allegation anyway.