On Tuesday, multiple Fox News hosts accused the media of “falsely” blaming Trump for the death of a man, and the hospitalization of his wife, after the couple ingested a fish tank cleaner containing a deadly derivative of the chemical chloroquine phosphate. The wife told reporters that “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.”
Despite the wife’s statement, multiple Fox hosts attacked the media for “blaming Trump” for the death of the man. Tucker Carlson decried that “nobody one suggested” the couple attempt to self medicate, and hysterically accused CNN’s coverage of the incident of implying that “it was Trump that killed him.”
The Five’s Greg Gutfeld claimed the death of the man only made the news only because “it could be blamed on Trump.”
Both Carlson and Gutfeld accused the couple of taking a different drug, with Gutfeld claiming they did the equivalent of mixing up “salt” and “lye.” Chloroquine phosphate is present in both anti-malarial drugs and in some aquarium cleaners, however, the formulation of the aquarium cleaner makes it toxic.
Despite Fox’s outrage at the suggestion that no one but the couple is to blame for their hospitalization and death, a March 19 headline on Fox News’ website implies an equivalence between the pharmaceutical and an aquarium chemical: “Drug cleared by Trump, FDA for coronavirus testing also found in fish tanks -- and prices online are soaring.”
The Fox article hypes the spike in prices of fish tank cleaners containing chloroquine phosphate without clearly explaining that outside of its approved pharmaceutical form and dosage, chloroquine phosphate can be toxic and deadly -- though it does mention that it’s not for “human consumption” at the end of the third paragraph. Considering most Americans don’t read past the headline of an article, it is not only irresponsible but outright idiotic for Fox to imply such equivalence in the article title during a pandemic when people are desperate to find ways to protect themselves.
The article also stated that “President Trump announced in a press conference Thursday that chloroquine phosphate -- a substance found in drugs used to treat malaria and severe arthritis -- was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test as a treatment for the coronavirus.” (The FDA has not approved the drug for treatment of COVID-19.) As of this morning, the article remains live on Fox’s website, without any updates or clarifications.
It wasn't just Fox News, either. Articles like this were elsewhere in right-wing media. There was a similar article in News Corp's New York Post:
A News Corp. website in Australia also pushed the connection.
Going back to Fox News, its prime-time personalities have been feverishly promoting the drug across the network despite pushback from health officials warning that clinical trials are still inconclusive and that they don't want to provide the public with false hope. The chloroquine fever arguably kicked off on Tucker Carlson Tonight, where Gregory Rigano, a lawyer who was incorrectly described as an adviser to Stanford University’s medical school despite having no actual affiliation, appeared multiple times to tout the potential benefits of these drugs. Rigano went so far as to claim that the research he was presenting had managed to “cure” a virus for only the second time in history. Sean Hannity posited that the risks “seem minimal” and promoted an untested, unapproved combination of drugs to treat COVID-19. And Laura Ingraham pushed back on Dr. Anothy Fauci’s characterization of evidence supporting the drug as “anecdotal.”