Why it matters that Trump is pointing to a 'cure' that doesn't exist

There is no cure for the coronavirus. For Trump to say that "we have a cure" is wrong, and could carry public-health consequences.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference inside the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks inside the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on Sept. 27, 2020.Ken Cedeno / Reuters

The first sign of trouble came on Wednesday. In a weird online video, featuring the president in unusual makeup, Donald Trump boasted about the amazing medicine he'd taken to treat the coronavirus. "It just made me better," the Republican said. "I call that a cure."

Except, he shouldn't "call that a cure," because in reality, there is not yet a coronavirus cure -- and telling the public otherwise needlessly puts people at risk.

Nevertheless, Trump pushed the same line on Fox News last night, saying in reference to his medications, "I viewed it as a cure. It's incredible. And we're going to get it to everybody, free of charge." He added that "the military" will be delivering the "cure" to hospitals.

This afternoon, the rhetoric was slightly worse.

President Trump is once again touting the antibody treatment he received as a "cure" for the coronavirus. "I'm telling you we have a cure," Trump told radio host Rush Limbaugh during a "radio rally."

Because this is so important, it's worth setting the record straight. As of now, there is no cure for the coronavirus. To say that "we have a cure" is demonstrably wrong.

What's more, while I'm sure the president is excited to be feeling better, the treatments he's received have not yet proven to be an effective treatment with a large number of patients.

Complicating matters, as Trump talks about the idea of national distribution, the medications in question are in short supply, and it'll be months before production can be ramped up, even if the treatments are proven effective.

As for the president's assurance that the "cure" will be "free," the truth is far more complicated, and the idea that the military is poised to deliver the "cure" to hospitals is literally unbelievable.

But as important as the individual factual errors are, even more important is the effect of Trump's deception: an untold number of Americans will hear their president say that "we have a cure," believe him, and ease up on necessary precautions intended to slow the spread of the pandemic.

In other words, what the president is peddling isn't just a lie, it's a falsehood that could make a bad situation worse.