Donald Trump is trying to roll back his comments about how ingesting disinfectants could potentially cure the coronavirus and now claims he was simply being sarcastic, but his remarks were heard by millions of people and many people assume the president wouldn’t put forward a potential treatment unless it was safe. As a result, poison control centers have seen a large increase in actual cases involving ingesting disinfectants and even more calls related to the topic.
This shows how the president’s rhetoric and incompetence has devastating consequences for the American people. Perhaps realizing this, even Republican governors have been speaking out and calling for Trump to stop spreading misinformation and behaving in a reckless manner.
“People listen to these press conferences,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said according to Politico. “They certainly pay attention when the president of the United States is standing there giving a press conference … when misinformation comes out or you just say something that pops in your head, it does send a wrong message.”
On the local level here in Fairfax County, the chairman of the County’s Board of Supervisor, Jeff McKay, ended up including a warning during a COVID-19 update that drinking bleach would be dangerous and wouldn’t actually kill the virus. In other words, our local officials are having to spend time stopping the spread of misinformation that’s coming out of the White House instead of discussing legitimate options for progress.
All of this also comes as Trump is also constantly promoting the use of an anti-malaria drug to combat the coronavirus even though scientists and public health officials have raised concern about moving forward with this treatment plan. What this all means is that the public is constantly receiving false information during a public health crisis. And since Trump’s press conferences have received a lot of viewers, news reports breaking down the dangers of his remarks aren’t seen by nearly as many people.
With all this in mind, the question has now become whether or not television stations have a responsibility to air Trump’s press conferences live. Considering the importance and newsworthiness of what the White House says during a public health crisis, it’s understandable that news outlets want to air the remarks. But airing a live press conference doesn’t allow experts to debunk all the falsehoods currently being promoted by the White House.
The increase in cases poison control has seen shows this could have devastating consequences. With resources like c-span and the internet, there will always be a place for the public to consume the raw material without added commentary. But news outlets have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of blatant falsehoods that could actually put the public at risk.
Fortunately, we’ve received a bit of a reprieve this weekend as even Trump’s closest advisors have been pushing for scaling back media appearances and the president didn’t speak the last couple days. There’s no firm reports on how long this will actually last, but we’ve at least had a brief break from the constant spread of false information.