Just three weeks after MSNBC analyst Dr. Irwin Redlener compared President Trump to mass suicide-leading cult leader Jim Jones, he appeared on MSNBC Live and picked up where he left off. This time, Redlener, the Director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, described the President as a “personal public health hazard to the citizens of this country.”
The discussion focused on President Trump’s decision to take hydroxychloroquine in an effort to protect him from contracting the coronavirus. Redlener and host Nicolle Wallace made it perfectly clear that they did not approve. Redlener asked “is it possible that he’s completely oblivious to the fact that when he says and does things that it’s going to be emulated by so many people in America that are part of his cult.”
At this point, Redlener appeared to show some self-awareness about the controversy he would cause by using the term “cult,” so he corrected himself to say “I mean, part of his following.” Nonetheless, Redlener quickly returned to form, describing the President’s actions as “preposterous” and “dangerous” and recycling the talking points about Trump telling people to ingest bleach before declaring “he has in fact himself become a personal public health hazard to the citizens of this country.”
About an hour before Wallace interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and praised her as a “straight talker” for calling Trump “morbidly obese,” the MSNBC host provided a preview of coming attractions by bringing up the Speaker’s comment and highlighting how “his health report” showed that his “weight was technically morbidly obese.” They didn’t care that liberal-leaning PolitiFact rated that as “False.”
For his part, Redlener agreed with Wallace and Pelosi and reiterated his position that “it is hazardous” for the President to encourage people to take hydroxychloroquine.
As the segment came to a close, Wallace thanked Redlener for sharing his “expertise” with the audience. While Wallace and MSNBC viewers may appreciate Redlener’s “expertise,” they have another reason to admire him even more: his eagerness to trash President Trump and his supporters.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Tuesday’s edition of MSNBC Live is below. Click “expand” to read more.
NICOLLE WALLACE: Today, the medical community is reminding all Americans that hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be safe or effective for treating Coronavirus or to prevent it. And minutes after Trump announced he was taking it yesterday, viewers on Fox News heard these warnings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
NEIL CAVUTO: If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus. And you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you.
DR. BOB LAHITA: These drugs can be very dangerous. And if they don’t have any effect, there’s no reason to take them.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: That might have prompted President Trump to tweet last night that he was “looking for a new outlet” and that he missed Roger Ailes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the news to take a shot at the President’s health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: He’s our President and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists; especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, what is morbidly obese, they say. So I, I, I, I think that what’s…it’s not a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Speaker Pelosi will join me on Deadline: White House in exactly one hour. Joining our conversation, though, Los Angeles Times White House reporter Eli Stokols and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness and an MSNBC public health analyst. Eli Stokols, the President’s on the move today, out and about, talking about his use of a drug that the FDA warned was lethal when taken outside of the hospital. When Donald Trump said, “take it, what do you have to lose,” the American Medical Association answered him directly by saying “your life.” Is the President trying to convince anyone else to take it or simply defending himself from criticism that he’s taking it?
ELI STOKOLS: I think most likely the latter, Nicolle. It’s hard to know really, given this President and the lack of transparency we’ve seen from him over the years related to health questions, not to mention other topics. It’s hard to know or to not be a little skeptical of his claim that he is taking it, and certainly the Vice President today said that he is not taking it and…and obviously, you know, we have to take him at his word for that. So, you know, you can look at this two different ways. You can look at this as a President who may be feeling especially vulnerable. The statement from the White House basically attributed or linked him taking this with the positive test by a military valet, who was very close to the President a week or so ago and…and so you can understand that perhaps the President, he said today, that he’s looking for an extra layer of protection, or that’s what it gives people. You can understand if that’s what he was looking for and that is why he is taking this, although we certainly don’t know that he is again and we don’t know what dosage he’s taking it in.
But again, the point you make about the President going to great lengths to prove that he is right, to prove that he did not make a mistake in contradicting his own FDA, which has warned people not to take this, that it doesn’t…that there aren’t benefits and there are great risks to taking this for Coronavirus symptoms without consulting a doctor. You know, this is a President who, in an interview with Fox News recently, said that the central takeaway from the last couple of months was that he was right all along. And that’s really a central operating principle for him and a lot of his behaviors and so I think part of this, you could see the eagerness that he showed yesterday to sort of tell this to the reporters. He knew he would get a reaction. He was eager to put this out there. I think this is obviously a President who will go to great lengths to avoid admitting that he could have been wrong about something, that his…his position is contradicted by experts, and you heard it again this afternoon; when he attributed all of the health warnings to Trump enemies.
WALLACE: So, I guess Dr. Redlener, the FDA falls in the category of a Trump enemy, because this is what the FDA says about hydroxychloroquine. “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19. They are being studied in clinical trials for COVID-19, and we authorized their temporary use during the COVID-19 pandemic for treatment of the virus in hospitalized patients when clinical trials are not available, or participation is not feasible.” Just for…for anyone out there, and…and it really is a sort of a 1 percent thing, people that can go get their hands on…on drugs outside of a hospital, but there are people who support Donald Trump, who might try some of what he’s tried, which I…I went through today to see if there’s any of the health advice for fighting coronavirus that he’s following. He’s not wearing a mask. He’s not practicing much social distancing; at least when we see him in public. He is taking hydroxychloroquine. His plan for getting a safe vaccine to market is called Operation Warp Speed and the only public health measure that he’s embraced is hand washing.
DR. IRWIN REDLENER: Yeah…yeah, Nicolle, you know, it’s, it’s, it…it’s hard to understand what’s going through his mind, of course. But is it possible that he’s completely oblivious to the fact when he says and does things that it’s going to be emulated by so many people in America, part of his cult…I mean, part of his following? It’s…I guess it’s possible, but I…I don’t think the history of his actions and statements as President has really…has…supports that. I think everything is calculated; everything is intentional. He is defiant as a…as an M.O. of his personality and what he’s attempting to do and show himself as a leader, but the fact that he’s doing and saying these things, as you just recounted, Nicolle, are…that are just…they’re just preposterous. And it’s dangerous…it’s, it’s okay, you know, if I want to do something outside the ordinary or if you do and, you know, maybe I’ll have a handful of people that…that might pay attention, but he’s President of the United States. He’s…his words have impact across the entire world. So, when he says something that’s dangerous or when he ponders, you know, out loud at a briefing about the use of bleach, isopropyl alcohol and…and UV lights in your body to treat COVID or prevent it, people pay attention to those things. And he has in fact become himself a personal public health hazard to the citizens of this country. It’s just…just astounding. And I…you know, I’m…I’m hoping that somebody can talk some sense into him. And by the way, he did say he was taking it daily for more than a week, and that’s not even the dose you would use to prevent malaria. That’s a weekly dose. This is a dose that you would take daily if you were very, very sick with malaria or lupus. But…but to even suggest that as a potential option for treating or preventing COVID-19 is so far out of bounds from the medical point of view that it’s just astonishing, Nicolle.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about the two pieces of tape we played. Neil Cavuto, who’s my neighbor in cable television over on Fox News at 4 P.M., there was some fear in his voice; urging his viewers with any risk factors not to take it. Can you address the dangers of taking it if it’s not been prescribed and you’re not…I mean, it…it doesn’t sound like it’s recommended that anyone take it, unless you’re in the hospital in some sort of critical care situation and your doctor thinks it might have a positive impact, but even all the news reporting suggests that’s not always the case. And then the other, Nancy Pelosi describing Donald Trump as morbidly obese. A lot of people are reading into the state of their relationship, but that is his health report, as put out by the White House doctor…
WALLACE: …the last time we had any sort of public release about his health. It was…his weight was technically morbidly obese.
REDLENER: That’s true, Nicolle. And the other thing is that, you know, he, the…the problem with this drug is… first of all, it’s not proven to be effective. So we don’t even know whether…”yeah, it works but we’ll take a chance.” So, number one, it’s not proven to be effective with COVID. And number two, it is not safe. We already know that, that there are people with risk factors that actually die from the cardiac complications of taking hydroxychloroquine. So, to say that, you know, “why not give it a try,” which is basically Trump’s mantra on this, is not appropriate. It is…it is hazardous to do what he’s saying. So, people should not be doing it. And the people that are getting it, by the way, are getting it in what’s called protocols. In other words, they are very sick patients in hospitals. They’re given the drug as sort of a last-ditch effort, hoping that something might happen. But so far, the date is….the thing that happens is nothing to help COVID and potentially…and people getting heart disease and some deaths associated with it. So, there’s nothing okay about Trump’s recommendations or his cavalier attitude by, you know, like, what…“you know, why not give it a try?” Well, there’s a lot of why nots that I just recounted and…and people should really, really ignore this advice or these implications of advice that are coming from the Oval Office and that incredibly powerful bully pulpit that he occupies, Nicolle.
WALLACE: Powerful, but with diminishing approval for the job he’s doing. Eli, I want you to take us through your reporting, but I also want to throw in the, the, the backdrop against which you report, that Trump lashes out with distractions and disinformation. There’s some cause and effect here afoot, one can safely assume. The Governor of Maryland, a Republican, Larry Hogan, has an 85 percent approval rating. The Republican Governor of Massachusetts has an 82 percent approval rating. The Ohio Republican Governor, Mike Dewine, one of the earliest states to shut down, a devout mask-wearer and advocate of social distancing, not pushing hydroxychloroquine on the good people of Ohio, an 80 percent approval rating. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, our country’s epicenter of COVID-19, a 75 percent approval rating. New Jersey’s Democratic Governor, Phil Murphy, a 74 percent approval rating. California Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, a 72 percent approval rating. Republican Governor Brian Kemp is down at 43 percent. He got a disapproving nod from the President and Vice President for his early and aggressive reopening, but he’s the only one that sits down where Trump is in terms of how he’s viewed by the public at 43 percent. Tell us what…what you have observed to be the impact of his political standing.
STOKOLS: Well, the political standing does have something to do with it. And this is a President who has been confronted in recent weeks with dismal public and private campaign polling, showing that he has lost a lot of ground; especially in April, and that now he is struggling to make up that ground. I would hesitate to say that’s what explains all of these news stories, all of the chum the President throws into the water, because he has always been doing that. If anything, it’s probably more likely that the polling is a reflection of…a reflection of the chaos that we see every day from this President and the way that looks differently to people in the middle of a pandemic; where, at this point, more than 91,000 Americans have already perished and close to 40 million Americans have lost their jobs in just a couple of months. Obviously, you know, this serves as a distraction. Whether it’s intentional and the President’s just trying to talk about and focus the country on something other than the death toll and the job situation, that’s a matter for debate, but we talked to a lot of experts in putting this story together and trying to assess, you know, some context for the President using the oval office to disseminate so much misinformation and people who study the American presidency, people who study political science generally across the world, they cannot think of another situation when someone has used so powerful an office to so brazenly disseminate so many falsehoods and conspiracy theories at one time but conspiracy theories, grievance, this is something that the President politically cannot really function without. And so even in a pandemic, he’s talking about himself as a victim of the deep state. He’s talking about himself as a victim of the media. And we’re seeing that in a lot of these stories and a lot of the things that the President is putting out there when he comes in front of the…the news cameras, the White House press pool a couple times a day.
WALLACE: An unbelievable state of affairs at that building that you cover, Eli Stokols. Thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us and Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you for sharing your expertise with us.