Medical expert on Fox News debunks Fox's push to use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19

Even as Dana Perino repeated claims made previously by Laura Ingraham, the segment made no explicit mention of the network’s role in promoting hydroxychloroquine

In a remarkable segment on Monday, Fox News anchor Dana Perino hosted a medical expert who debunked the narrative that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a cure for the coronavirus pandemic. But while hosting the doctor, Perino ignored just how avidly her own network has promoted the drug — and she even seemed to be quoting a thoroughly debunked miracle healing story by one of her colleagues.

Fox News has been at the forefront of promoting the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in treatment of people suffering from COVID-19, contributing to President Donald Trump touting them at his press conferences. Just this morning, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared on Fox & Friends and disagreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s skepticism of the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

During The Daily Briefing, Perino hosted Dr. William Haseltine, who said that the drug was not effective and could have “life-threatening consequences” for those misusing it. (Indeed, several hospitals in Sweden have reportedly “stopped administering chloroquine to coronavirus patients following reports the drug was causing adverse side effects.”)

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Citation From the April 6, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino

DANA PERINO (ANCHOR): Sir, can you tell me your thoughts about this -- everybody wants to find a cure or treatment or a therapy for coronavirus. What do you think about the drug that is used, normally, to treat malaria?

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE (PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL): Well, thank you for the question, Dana. It's sad, to me, that people are promoting that drug. We know already, from studies, at best it will have a very mild effect — at very best. There are studies that conflict a little bit, one from the other. One concludes it has no effect, the other concludes it has a mild effect. The net result is, whatever effect it has, it will be very mild. That drug has been used for years against many other viruses — to no effect. The thing that makes me sad about that story is some people may take it who are on other medications, who have other underlying conditions, and may have very serious, even life-threatening, consequences. It is not something to take unless a doctor prescribes it.

PERINO: And the government is not saying that a doctor could not prescribe it, but that should be something that is worked out between them. And what about the — and I know you don't go by anecdotal evidence, but there are stories of people saying that they've had this Lazarus effect by using this drug.

HASELTINE: That is nonsense, complete and utter nonsense. And in any situation, there are always going to be people who promote one kind of quack cure or another. And there are Lazarus effects. In every epidemic I've ever looked at, it's always the case. Let me just repeat, we know that at very best, this drug will have a very mild effect on changing the course of the disease, if it has any effect at all. That is what the data has shown so far, and I am convinced that that's what further studies will show. And it's not without adverse consequence. It is irresponsible to promote this drug at this time.

PERINO: I hear you loud and clear.

HASELTINE: I know that isn’t the message that people want to hear. People don't want to hear that, but it is unfortunately the case.

This clip also shows the purported Fox “news” side simply repeated a debunked claim made by an “opinion”-side host. Perino had mentioned the drug having a supposed “Lazarus effect” on a person — which was the same wording that Fox prime-time opinion host Laura Ingraham had used on the March 19 episode her own show, to describe a supposed case at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“And one patient was described as Lazarus getting up after — after he was, he was like on death's door,” Ingraham said. “And they started getting a protocol of hydroxychloroquine at Lenox Hill, and it suddenly like Lazarus, up from the grave. I mean that's an actual case. But that having been said, people are criticizing the administration for this.”

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Citation From the March 19, 2020, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

Ingraham’s statement was based on her interview earlier in that episode with Dr. William Grace, whom Ingraham introduced as an “oncologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City,” and who promoted the drug’s use. (Grace would again appear on the March 20 and April 2 editions of the show.)

However, as freelance writer Nancy Levine reported for Rantt, Grace’s credentials on the show were inflated. According to a spokesperson for the hospital’s parent organization Northwell, “He is not employed by Lenox Hill Hospital or Northwell. He is a private physician who has admitting privileges. His views are his own and do not represent those of our organization.”

Indeed, as Levine pointed out, some staff doctors at Lenox Hill had publicly said they were not using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients as they were waiting for data from ongoing trials. As a result of Levine’s reporting, Twitter took down a tweet by Ingraham claiming that Lenox Hill doctors were already using hydroxychloroquine “with very promising results” for violating Twitter’s policies against coronavirus misinformation.

In addition, a Fox News article about one of Grace’s appearances on Ingraham’s show now carries an editorial note: “A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Dr. William Grace's relationship to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Dr. Grace is not employed by the hospital and his opinions given below are his own.”