It’s good to see that, a year and change on, members of President Joe Biden’s White House still feel it’s important messaging to keep alive the lie that former President Donald Trump once told America to go inject itself with disinfectant to cure COVID-19.
I know, it’s probably been a while for most of us since we heard this one. Yet, like Trump’s infamously twisted “very fine people” Charlottesville quote, the disinfectant fabrication gets trotted out from time to time when people on the left find themselves in an uncomfortable situation and need to lie about how bad the former president was to make themselves or whoever they’re speaking on behalf of look better by comparison.
On Wednesday, that person was White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
For a bit of context, conservatives have been noting that it’s a bit rich the president has been pushing at the vaccine-hesitant pretty hard over the past few weeks. From a door-to-door vaccination drive that probably could have been rolled out better to a mandate that U.S. military members get the jab, it feels as if the Biden administration has done everything short of sending Seal Team 6 out with Moderna-tipped blow-darts.
The rich part of this is that both of the key members of the administration — Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — expressed vaccine hesitancy during the 2020 presidential campaign, implying any inoculation that came out under Trump’s watch couldn’t be trusted.
As conservative pundit and California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder pointed out in an Op-Ed in March, both ends of the ticket dismissed Trump’s assertions that a vaccine was around the corner.
“I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this point, the American people can’t, either,” Biden said in September.
Earlier that month, Harris said, “There is very little that we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.” In October, during the vice presidential debate, she said that “if Donald Trump tells us I should take [the vaccine], that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: “There is very little that we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.” pic.twitter.com/3gFmCripX5
— The Hill (@thehill) September 7, 2020
Just days after the election, the first successful Phase 3 vaccine trials were reported.
On Wednesday, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked Psaki whether Biden had given thought “to the possibility that he may have created some vaccine hesitancy when last year around this time the previous administration was rushing to get a vaccine authorized and the now-president said, ‘I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this moment, the American people can’t either.'”
And thus did we enter non-answer answer territory: “Well, I think it’s safe to say he still doesn’t trust Donald Trump, so that hasn’t changed. But he does trust scientists, he does trust data experts and he does trust the people leading the CDC, the FDA, which is the gold standard of approval for vaccines,” Psaki said.
“I’d also note, because this question often comes up, that the president has repeatedly given credit to scientists and experts from the prior administration, even as recently as just a few weeks ago, for their role in moving the vaccines forward.”
Nevertheless, Doocy persisted: “Yes, but at the time when Donald Trump is out there saying, ‘We’re going to have a vaccine in the next couple weeks, next couple months,’ and Joe Biden is out on the campaign trail saying, ‘Don’t trust Donald Trump,’ did that create any kind of vaccine hesitancy?”
“Not that we’ve seen in the data,” Psaki said. “I would note that at the time, just for context, the former president was also suggesting people inject versions of poison into their veins to cure COVID, so I think that’s a relevant point.”
Except he didn’t. And that’s not just a writer for The Western Journal talking; even PolitiFact, the Poynter Institute’s reliably left-skewed fact-checking grift, acknowledged this wasn’t what Trump said during the April 23, 2020, media briefing in question.
As PolitiFact noted, “President Trump floated the idea of using disinfectants and sunlight to treat COVID-19 patients” and “several websites and social media posts have taken [those remarks] out of context.” (This was published the day after Trump’s briefing, before virtually every Democrat and MSNBC contributor who was given the opportunity took the remarks deliberately and wildly out of context.)
“The briefing transcript shows that Trump did not say people should inject themselves with bleach or alcohol to treat the coronavirus,” PolitiFact said. “He was asking officials on the White House coronavirus task force whether they could be used in potential cures.”
Video of his comments shows Trump was mainly spitballing after a presentation by Department of Homeland Security official Bill Bryan regarding the effects of temperature and disinfectants on the novel coronavirus.
Bryan announced research teams had “tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids, and I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes.”
After Bryan’s presentation, Trump again took the podium.
“So I’ll ask Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, 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, but you’re going to test it,” he said.
“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. Sounds interesting, right?
“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.
“So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.”
When a reporter specifically asked whether disinfectants could be injected, Trump was unequivocal.
“It wouldn’t be through injections, almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area,” he said. “Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.”
Was the language inexact? Sure. At no point, however, did the then-president say people should inject disinfectant.
Inexact language is a lot less irresponsible than lying about that language for political gain, sowing distrust and division.
One year and four months later, Jen Psaki has managed to be even more shamelessly irresponsible: claiming part of the reason Biden pushed vaccine hesitancy on the campaign trail last year is because of a quote that was never uttered.
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