Trump dodges responsibility after calls to poison controls climb

Trump "can't imagine" why there'd be an increase in Americans misusing disinfectants. Is it really that complicated?
Image: Disinfectant
Disinfectant products on a store shelf. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)Jeff Greenberg / Universal Image via Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump has made a variety of memorable comments since the coronavirus crisis began, but one of the president's more unfortunate quotes came in early March. At a White House press briefing, NBC News' Kristen Welker asked him whether he should take responsibility for the failure to disseminate larger quantities of tests earlier. "I don't take responsibility at all," Trump replied.

Yesterday, we saw a similar display.

President Donald Trump said he takes no responsibility for a spike in cases of people misusing disinfectants after he wondered aloud last week about possibly injecting them as a treatment for coronavirus. When asked Monday about the increase of people in some states ingesting disinfectants Trump answered: "I can't imagine why."

Pressed further on whether he takes any responsibility for those harmed by misuse of cleaning products, the president replied, "No, I don't."

The fact that Trump is preemptively dodging culpability isn't exactly surprising. On the contrary, it's one of his standard moves. But what struck me as notable was the president twice saying he "can't imagine why" there'd be a sudden increase in poison-control problems.

As it happens, I can imagine why. On Thursday afternoon, the president of the United States told a national television audience that disinfectants are effective in "knocking out" the virus "in a minute." He proceeded to wonder aloud whether there's "a way we can do something like that by injection inside -- or almost a cleaning."

It wasn't long before Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said her state had "seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control." Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said something similar.

State health officials in Illinois said over the weekend that there'd been "a significant increase in calls" to the state's poison-control center, and New York's health department acknowledged a related increase.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported yesterday that Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman said poison control officials in his state saw "a 40% increase in the ingestion of toxic chemicals following remarks made by President Donald Trump." Norman added that one Kansan over the weekend drank a disinfectant product "because of the advice that he had received."

It's against this backdrop that Trump "can't imagine" why there'd be an increase in Americans misusing disinfectants. Perhaps the president's imagination is as troubled as his understanding of science?