Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Trump Walter Reed

President Donald Trump, infected with coronavirus, leaves Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to greet supporters on Sunday, October 4, 2020. (Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

'This Is Insanity': Walter Reed Physician Slams Covid-Infected Trump for Recklessly Leaving Hospital to Greet Supporters

Dr. James Phillips condemned the "completely unnecessary presidential 'drive-by'" as "political theater" that endangered the health of everyone who was forced to take part.

Jake Johnson

An attending physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center took to Twitter Sunday evening to publicly voice outrage at President Donald Trump's decision to briefly leave the Maryland hospital to greet supporters rallying nearby, a move the doctor slammed as "political theater" that endangered the health and potentially the lives of those forced to participate.

"Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential 'drive-by' just now has to be quarantined for 14 days," tweeted Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University. "They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity."

At least two masked Secret Service agents were inside the armored and enclosed SUV, which Phillips noted in a subsequent tweet "is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack."

"The risk of Covid-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures," Phillips wrote. "The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."

In an interview with the New York Times late Sunday—just 48 hours after Trump checked into Walter Reed amid concerns that his condition was deteriorating—Phillips raised the possibility that the president is improperly ordering the facility's doctors to abide by his politically motivated whims.

"At what point does the physician-patient relationship end, and does the commander in chief and subordinate relationship begin, and were those doctors ordered to allow this to happen?" Phillips asked, pointing out that no other coronavirus-infected patient would be permitted to briefly leave the hospital as Trump did Sunday, in violation of CDC guidelines.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University's Milken School of Public Health, tweeted Sunday that "if Donald Trump were my patient, in unstable condition plus a contagious illness, and he suddenly left the hospital to go for a car ride that endangers himself and others: I'd call security to restrain him then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity."

Trump's stunt—an apparent attempt to project an image of speedy recovery from the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans on his watch—came at the close of a weekend packed with obfuscation by the administration officials responsible for keeping the public apprised of the president's condition.

On Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley delivered a press briefing in which he muddled the timeline of Trump's coronavirus diagnosis, offered a rosy assessment of the president's condition, and repeatedly dodged straightforward questions about the treatment process.

In the face of criticism from public health experts and members of the press, Conley admitted Sunday that his earlier briefing was "trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had" rather than providing an unvarnished account of Trump's medical status. After refusing to do so on Saturday, Conley finally acknowledged Sunday that Trump experienced two drops in blood oxygen levels on Friday and Saturday and received supplemental oxygen at least once.

"Every statement he is giving appears to be political, dictated by the White House or the president," one unnamed person who has worked with Conley told the Washington Post. "These are not the statements a medical doctor gives."

The president's medical team on Sunday also belatedly disclosed that Trump is being treated with dexamethasone, a steroid that is typically only recommended for severe cases of Covid-19.

But despite indications that Trump's illness is more serious than administration officials are letting on, the president's doctors said he could be discharged from Walter Reed as early as Monday. In a column for the Washington Post on Saturday, Wen wrote that "based on the limited information we have about President Trump's health, it's too risky to send him back to the White House on Monday."

"In the absence of trusted information, we are left to speculate on a matter as consequential as the president's health," Wen added. "Based on what we know, discharging Trump from the hospital on Monday seems premature and potentially dangerous."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Watching US With Horror, European Groups Push Leaders to Strengthen Abortion Rights

"This is an important moment for leaders across Europe who are committed to reproductive rights to lead by example and galvanize action in their own countries," said one campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressive Delia Ramirez Defeats Billionaire PAC Money to Win Illinois Primary

"Billionaires and their super PACs are spending millions to defeat progressive candidates," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Ramirez. "They have the money, but we've got the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo