Trump parades recovered Covid-19 patients while attacking Biden and praising controversial coronavirus drug

After first downplaying severity of Covid-19, president tells recovered victims it’s a ‘plague’ and ‘scourge’

John T. Bennett
Tuesday 14 April 2020 18:38 BST
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Donald Trump, in a much more jovial mood than during a confrontational Monday evening press conference, used a meeting with recovered coronavirus patients to take a jab at Joe Biden and again advocate for a malaria medication in which his family reportedly has a financial stake.

The president joked with, and questioned, a handful of individuals who contracted the sometimes-deadly virus in a midday Cabinet Room meeting in which everyone was social distancing. But, as usual, Mr Trump used the event to suggest hydroxychloroquine can help most who get the virus recover faster – and he suggested the former vice president, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, would, if elected, block its mass production during a pandemic.

The meeting, which Mr Trump allowed to be witnessed by journalists, was vintage showman Trump. It also featured a lengthy discussion of NFL quarterback Tom Brady, and his chances with his new team in Tampa Bay, Florida.

“Say hello to Tom when you see him,” Mr Trump told Mark Campbell he called a friend of Mr Brady. “He’s a great guy.”

The president, as he often does, also reversed himself. This time, again, it was about the severity of coronavirus.

After spending much of January and February calling it similar to the flu and likely to dissipate when the weather warmed, on Tuesday he called it a “plague” and a “scourge,” saying “it’s rough, it’s bad”.

One of his guests in the ornate Cabinet Room was Karen Whitsett, a Democratic state legislator, who told him she became alarmed during her Covid-19 experience “by the breathing”. She and her husband told the president how they finally acquired a prescription for the malaria drug.

Before she was finished, Mr Trump said her “thank you” to him for pushing the medication shows she has a political future and he “might cross the political aisle” to work with her.

“I’m not going to speak for her, but I don’t see her voting for ‘Sleepy Joe‘ Biden,” Mr Trump said of Ms Whitsett. “If she votes for ‘Sleepy Joe,’ I’d be surprised.”

His comment was eyebrow-raising because the state representative never blamed any Democratic lawmaker, local or national, for her experience. She did call for hydroxychloroquine to be available more readily in Detroit, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

But she never said or alluded to an opinion that any state, local or national Democratic official was blocking the drug.

“What do you have to lose? It’s an unbelievable malaria drug, an unbelievable lupus drug,” Mr Trump said, offering no medical or scientific evidence for his claims. “I haven’t heard a bad story.”

Some people, however, have taken the drug and experienced side effects.

Despite having downplayed the virus’s severity early on, Mr Trump, while seated with the victims called it a “bigger, better, much worse event” than the common flu.

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