Donald Trump dramatically refused to take journalists’ questions at the daily White House coronavirus press conference 24 hours after he was blasted for suggesting injections of disinfectant as a treatment.
The President turned his back and walked out of the briefing room on Friday evening as reporters’ shouted questions at him, having earlier claimed the disinfectant remarks were ‘sarcastic.’ It is the first time he has refused to take questions since the daily briefings – which sometimes run to two hours long – began last month.
Trump exited the room seconds after Vice President Mike Pence gave an update on government efforts to tackle the crisis. Food and Drug Administration President Stephen Hahn also spoke briefly about attempts to increase testing capacity, and mass-produce Covid-19 tests Americans could take at home.
President Trump did speak at the beginning of the press conference, but only with a figure-filled update about how the number of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths had dropped by 40% in hot spot New York over the last week. He also hailed decreasing deaths and admission numbers in the state of Louisiana, which has been hit hard by the outbreak.
During his initial speech, President Trump went on offer a hopeful message about efforts to end lockdowns and re-open the US economy, saying: ‘We’re opening our country. It’s very exciting to see. We have a lot of talent involved from governors down to people that just stand there and help you with the doors.’ Friday’s briefing was by far the shortest since the crisis began, lasting just 22 minutes.
Axios reported Friday that Trump plans to ‘pare back’ his press conference appearances from next week. He has been spending up to two hours a day at the podium, and frequently clashes with reporters when grilled about his alleged mishandling of the crisis, which has so far killed over 50,000 Americans.
White House sources told Axios that Trump may stop appearing at the podium every day, and that any appearances he does make will be much shorter.
On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump sees the question and answer sessions as a way of reaching out to supporters because of ongoing social distancing measures that have stopped him holding reelection rallies.
But Trump’s free-wheeling style backfired spectacularly on Thursday when he suggested intravenous disinfectant treatments – or pulsing light under the skin – as potential treatments for Covid-19.
The president’s offending remarks saw an earnest-sounding Trump say: ‘Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light? And I think you said, that hasn’t been checked out, but you’re going to test it.’
The president, who has no scientific qualifications, then added: ‘And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too.
‘And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that? By injection inside, or almost a cleaning. ‘As you see, it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.’
Trump’s remarks quickly drew condemnation from doctors and disinfectant manufacturers, who warned that ingesting or injecting disinfectant could cause serious harm or death.
The president then attempted to downplay the comments as he signed an economic rescue package at the White House on Friday, saying: ‘I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.’
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