During a press briefing Sunday night purportedly aimed at providing the U.S. public with crucial information amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump refused to allow the nation's top infectious disease expert to answer a reporter's question about the efficacy of an anti-malaria drug that the president has recklessly touted as a possible COVID-19 treatment despite warnings from medical professionals.
Before Dr. Anthony Fauci could respond to the question about hydroxychloroquine, Trump—who was standing back and off to the side of the podium—complained that Fauci had already spoken about the drug "15 times."
"You don't have to ask the question again," said Trump, stepping forward and moving closer to Fauci as another reporter began asking a separate question.
"I answered this 15 times. You don't have to answer." -- Trump prevents Dr Fauci from answering a question about hydroxychloroquine pic.twitter.com/8R1K1hDsaX
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 6, 2020
"This is a really chilling moment from a science standpoint, with Trump having just pushed an unproven COVID treatment and Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., getting muzzled on live TV," tweeted Andrew Freedman, a climate reporter for the Washington Post. "Was clear Trump didn't want to be contradicted."
Dr. Lucky Tran, a biologist, said Trump's interruption was "unacceptable."
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"Dr. Fauci, one of the world's top infectious disease scientists, was just censored live at a White House press conference," tweeted Tran.
The exchange came just hours after Fauci, in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, said that "in terms of science, I don't think we could definitively say [hydroxychloroquine] works."
"The data are really just at best suggestive," said Fauci. "There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there's no effect."
During a press briefing Saturday evening, Trump said "I really think they should they should take it," referring to coronavirus patients and hydroxychloroquine. Three people in Nigeria overdosed on the drug last month after the president said, without evidence, that the drug may be able to combat the novel coronavirus.
In a joint statement on March 25, the American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists said "there is no incontrovertible evidence to support off-label use of medications for COVID-19."
"What do I know?" Trump asked during the press briefing Sunday night. "I'm not a doctor."