Then-President Donald Trump ordered Alex Azar, his then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, to immediately approve the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment because Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham had said it was effective, according to a new book.
Trump, an avid Fox viewer who regularly adapted the station’s programming into White House politics, became fascinated with the drug after his trusted Fox hosts began talking about it in mid-March 2020, as the novel coronavirus swept the country swept. If hydroxychloroquine had worked like Fox’s claimed COVID-19 miracle drug, it would have allowed Americans to quickly return to normal life without fear of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, according to numerous studies and US and international health authorities, hydroxychloroquine is not an effective coronavirus treatment.
Peter Baker and Susan Glasser shed new light on the role Fox played in convincing Trump that hydroxychloroquine would be a COVID-19 “game changer” in their new book. The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021.
They are recording a phone call between Trump and Azar that took place on March 18, 2020, two days after Ingraham praised the potential of hydroxychloroquine during an interview with Long Island Attorney Gregory Rigano, who championed the drug.
“Laura says hydroxychloroquine works. It’s absolutely safe so just approve it,” they write, saying Trump told Azar during the call.
When Azar protested, the then-president told him, “Laura takes it. It’s safe,” report Baker and Glasser.
“I want it approved today. That’s an order,” he finally demanded, according to the book.
After Trump publicly promoted hydroxychloroquine at a press conference the day after his call to Azar, the Fox-Trump feedback loop was in full swing: Fox ran hundreds of segments discussing the drug’s benefits; Trump praised the drug in response to the coverage and successfully pressured health officials to issue guidelines supporting the drug’s use as a coronavirus treatment; and Ingraham visited the White House with two members of her “medical cabinet” to meet with Trump and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and urge additional support for the treatment.
The federal government eventually stockpiled 66 million doses of a drug that isn’t effective in treating COVID-19 because Fox hosts told Trump it worked and he believed them. Meanwhile, the network moved to selling Ivermectin, another drug trial showing it to be ineffective in treating COVID-19 while smearing the actually effective COVID-19 vaccines. The results for Fox viewers were devastating.