The social media event of the week has to be that 40-minute video of several doctors outside the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming emphatically that a cure for the coronavirus already exists but is being ignored by the nation’s medical leaders.
The video from a group called America’s Frontline Doctors got viewed an estimated 20 million times, including by Donald Trump who shared it, before various social media outlets began blocking it. Facebook said it removed the video “for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.” YouTube and Twitter also removed it.
Although there are major doubts about the veracity of some of the claims made by the speakers, one certain thing is that the video is a good example of how medicine and politics have become intertwined by the coronavirus over the last few months.
NBC News reported that the event was paid for by the Tea Party Patriots, “a right-wing political nonprofit group” that raises money for Republican candidates and causes. The group has been critical of measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
The people who spoke in the video said masks, social distancing, business shutdowns and school closures are not necessary. Instead, the country should be distributing hydroxychloroquine, which at least one speaker claimed can both prevent and cure the virus.
A sizable number of viewers apparently believe what the video is claiming. The malaria drug, after all, is the same cure that President Trump, despite all the scientific studies to the contrary, has a hard time letting go of.
Although there have been some anecdotal reports about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, some of those touting it now are a bit kooky. Take, for example, Dr. Stella Immanuel, a prominent figure in the video who claimed she has cured 350 patients with the drug. This same immigrant doctor who practices in Houston, Texas, has previously claimed that some gynecological problems can be caused by having sex with demons and that half-human reptilians work in the government. (No wonder there’s a “swamp” in Washington.)
To believe, as this video claims, that a virus cure is being withheld intentionally means you also must believe there is a gigantic conspiracy in the medical and business communities.
The Food and Drug Administration, pressured by the White House, initially gave emergency approval to use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, but the FDA later reversed itself after an abundance of scientific research showed the drug was ineffective against the virus and the potential side effects from taking it were as risky as the disease.
Is the public seriously to think that the FDA and the overwhelming majority of scientists are just making this up? Or that, after caving to the administration’s pressure, the FDA is now trying to undermine his reelection? Or that the medical specialists in charge of the FDA are willing to let people die?
Conspiracy theorists may answer “yes” to all three questions. But the video is too slick to be seen as much more than a politically motivated public-relations ploy. For example, why did the doctors hold their press conference in front of the Supreme Court? And why were they all wearing their lab coats?
Questioning the agency’s medical reports is fine. Implying a grand conspiracy is nutty.