I can’t believe I actually have to write these words, but President Trump is not to blame for a couple ingesting fish tank cleaner.
NBC News reported Monday that a man died after he and his wife opted to ingest a ‘parasite treatment for fish’ because it contained chloroquine, an ingredient in anti-malaria medication that Trump touted as a potential treatment or cure for coronavirus. The media zeroed in on the fact that the wife, who survived ingesting the chemicals, said she got the idea to eat the fish tank powder from the president: ‘Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.’
‘Oh my God. Don’t take anything. Don’t believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the President says & his people…call your doctor,’ the woman said after her husband died, according to NBC News’s Vaughn Hillyard.
News outlets scrambled to push out headlines pinning the man’s death on Trump:
‘Arizona man dies after attempting to take Trump coronavirus “cure”‘ – the Guardian
These headlines all omit that the man ingested fish tank cleaner, which should immediately nullify any blame on Trump — anyone stupid enough to literally poison themselves with cleaning solutions has no one to blame but themselves. But the media’s reckless coverage of this event still falls apart even if we consider the notion that Trump may have inspired this couple to ingest chloroquine.
Looking back at the president’s statements at his press conference, there’s no way to rationally believe he was encouraging people to dose themselves. Trump misstated that the FDA had already approved chloroquine for treating coronavirus, which is not true. However, he also specifically mentioned the drug being made available via prescription, nullifying the idea that people should seek out the drugs themselves or self-medicate. A person’s brain has to skip at least eight levels of rationality to get from ‘this drug may be prescribed soon to treat patients with coronavirus’ to ‘the fish powder sitting behind my dog food has chloroquine phosphate in it, so I will eat it in order to prevent myself from getting coronavirus’.
Perhaps more damning is that Trump never connected chloroquine to aquariums or fish tanks — but the media sure did. As soon as the president first mentioned the drug as a potential COVID-19 cure, news outlets were writing articles noting that chloroquine phosphate is the active ingredient in numerous anti-bacterial fish products and algae cleansers.
‘Fish tank treatment uses the same chemical in the drug Trump claims could be a “game changer” for treating coronavirus despite zero proof,’ the Daily Mail wrote on March 20. The New York Post reported just one day earlier that sales of the ‘additive used to clean fish tanks’ had ‘skyrocketed’. Both are far more irresponsible than Trump citing preliminary studies about the drug’s effects on coronavirus. The framing of each outlet’s reporting could — and probably did — give people the false impression that the chemical in their cleaning products is the same thing as the pharmaceutical drug.
In fact, the medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, a part of the hospital system where the couple were treated, said the couple referenced online information about chloroquine phosphate in addition to the president’s press conferences:
‘Dr Brooks said the couple had read about chloroquine phosphate on the internet, which he said was cluttered with a lot of misinformation about treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus,’ according to the New York Times.
It’s certainly possible that the couple realized they had chloroquine phosphate by way of their fish tank product, did a quick Google search, and saw articles conflating such products with medicine. That’s a much shorter leap than the scenario where Trump is the culprit.
And once again, the media has fallen into another scenario where they become the cats chasing the laser pointer. While they latch onto the Darwin Award winners of the year as proof that Trump is botching the federal response to coronavirus, they are missing a potentially much more dangerous move by the president.
Trump said during a Fox News town hall today that he wants to see the US operating normally by Easter and that self-isolation recommendations could be lifted as early as Monday. It’s important to get the economy back on track, but doing so too early could expose millions more people to COVID-19 and cause a lot of unnecessary deaths — the cost-benefit analysis of such a decision should be the focus of the press, not the idiot couple that poisoned themselves.