Critics howled Friday afternoon as word came that President Donald Trump plans to hold an in-person White House event on Saturday, despite concerns he remains infected—and quite possibly contagious—with Covid-19.
The news came just hours after Fox News announced that the president's scheduled appearance on Tucker Carlson's show later in the night, his first on-camera interview since testing positive for coronavirus late last week, will include an on-air "medical evaluation" conducted by Dr. Marc Siegel, a frequent guest on the right-wing network known for spreading misinformation.
"This so-called 'medical exam' is a complete sham aimed at rehabilitating a sick president who, along with Fox News, has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans who died unnecessarily in this tragic crisis on their hands," said Madeline Peltz, a senior researcher for the watchdog group Media Matters for America, in a statement.
"From the very beginning, Marc Siegel has been a vector for misinformation about Covid-19," Peltz added. "Over the course of hundreds of Fox News appearances, Marc Siegel's commentary has been rife with pro-Trump sycophancy and a callous indifference to the truth."
Fox News medical contributor Marc Siegel is set to interview Trump tonight. Here's what you need to know about him: pic.twitter.com/6OVISjPIOq— Media Matters (@mmfa) October 9, 2020
In a separate blog post, Peltz documented Siegel's "long history of spreading dangerous coronavirus misinformation." During 318 appearances on the network since January 20, Siegel has downplayed Trump's positive diagnosis, belittled concerns about the pandemic, and undermined Biden's proposed mask mandate, among other egregious instances of "anti-science propaganda."
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley declared Thursday night that he expects the president—who has refused to say whether he has tested negative for Covid-19 since last week's diagnosis—to be able to resume "public engagements" as early as Saturday.
Late Friday afternoon, the New York Times, citing people familiar with the president's plans, reported that Trump "is planning to host hundreds of people on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday for his first in-person event since he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus."
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"Trump got the go-ahead from Dr. Conley to now host an in-person White House event on Saturday," tweeted epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding. "It's all about 'law and order'—just not public health law or Covid-19 good order."
Just in—Trump got the go ahead from his Dr Conley to now host an *IN-PERSON* WH event on Saturday! It’s all about “law and order”—just not public health law or #COVID19 good order. But no proof he’s not contagious yet. Dangerous. Please don’t go folks. https://t.co/wJnvcdZfzp pic.twitter.com/rXAkukTl9u— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) October 9, 2020
According to the Times:
Some in the White House and on the Trump campaign expressed concern about what the president might say in his remarks at the Saturday event, and feared the entire event would serve to underscore existing criticism that Mr. Trump has been cavalier about a virus that has killed over 210,000 Americans.
The event will come just two weeks after a Rose Garden celebration of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, an event that White House officials are looking at as the possible source of an outbreak of the coronavirus that has infected Mr. Trump, the first lady, and at least two dozen other people.
The possibility exists that Trump could do even more damage in the next couple of days. As Common Dreams reported earlier on Friday, the president told Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night that he plans to hold a pair of in-person rallies this weekend in the key battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania despite the fact that such events are public health hazards likely to accelerate the transmission of a devastating disease.
Regarding Trump's upcoming stunt on Tucker Carlson's show at 8:00 pm ET, PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor tweeted that this is "the reality TV president doing what he does."
"No proof he's not contagious yet," said Feigl-Ding. "Dangerous."