Then-President Donald Trump ordered Alex Azar, then his health and human services secretary, to immediately approve the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment because Fox News host Laura Ingraham had said it was effective, according to a new book.
Trump, an avid Fox viewer who regularly turned the network’s programming into White House policy, became transfixed by the drug after his trusted Fox hosts started talking it up in mid-March of 2020, as the novel coronavirus swept across the country. If hydroxychloroquine had worked as the COVID-19 miracle cure Fox claimed, it would have allowed Americans to swiftly return to normal life without fear of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Unfortunately, hydroxychloroquine is not an effective coronavirus treatment, according to numerous studies as well as U.S. and international health agencies.
Peter Baker and Susan Glasser shed new light on the role Fox played in convincing Trump that hydroxychloroquine would be a COVID-19 “game changer” in their new book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021.
They chronicle a phone call between Trump and Azar that took place on March 18, 2020, two days after Ingraham had praised the hydroxychloroquine’s potential during an interview with the Long Island lawyer Gregory Rigano, who championed the drug.
“Laura says hydroxychloroquine works. It’s perfectly safe, so just approve it,” they write that Trump told Azar during the phone call.
When Azar protested, the then-president told him, “Laura takes it. It’s safe,” Baker and Glasser report.
“I want it approved today. That’s an order,” he ultimately demanded, according to the book.
After Trump publicly touted hydroxychloroquine at a press briefing the day after his call with Azar, the Fox-Trump feedback loop went into full swing: Fox ran hundreds of segments talking up the drug’s benefits; Trump tweeted praise of the drug in response to the coverage and successfully pressured health officials to issue guidance supporting the use of the drug as a coronavirus treatment; and Ingraham visited the White House with two members of her “medicine cabinet” to meet with Trump and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and push for additional support for the treatment.
The federal government ultimately amassed a stockpile of 66 million doses of a drug that is not effective in treating COVID-19 because Fox hosts told Trump that it worked and he believed them. Meanwhile, the network moved on to peddling ivermectin, another drug studies show is ineffective in treating COVID-19, while slandering the actually effective COVID-19 vaccines. The results for Fox’s viewers have been devastating.