Media Outlets Called Out For Misleading Reports That Man Died After Taking Coronavirus Drug Touted By Trump
Several news organizations came under fire this week for a story about an elderly Arizona couple that poisoned themselves after hearing President Donald Trump’s comments about a possible coronavirus cure.
NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and Erika Edwards published a story Monday about a man who died, while his wife was hospitalized, after they both ingested chloroquine phosphate. The wife told NBC they were worried about contracting the coronavirus, and watched the president tout chloroquine as a possible cure for Covid-19 (even though it hasn’t been tested yet).
“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'” the wife said. “We were afraid of getting sick.”
While chloroquine can be used to treat malaria, NBC noted that the substance was not in its medicinal form when the couple drank it. According to Banner Health, the couple actually drank a cleaning chemical used to kill parasites in fish tanks.
When Hillyard posted portions of his phone conversation with the wife on Twitter, he didn’t mention what chloroquine phosphate is supposed to be used for. He did note, however, the part where he asked the woman if she heard the Food and Drug Administration say anything about a cure.
NBC: “Did you at any point hear that the FDA had not approved of it for coronavirus purposes or–?”
AZ Woman: “Yeah. But you know they kept saying that it was approved for other things…Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.” https://t.co/fOcmiIeCGf
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) March 24, 2020
Separately, NBC’s Heidi Przybyla amplified Hillyard’s reporting with her own Twitter thread that went viral:
?Her husband is dead & she’s in the ICU after ingesting chloroquine:
“We saw Trump on TV — every channel — & all of his buddies and that this was safe,” she said.
“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.”
— Heidi Przybyla (@HeidiNBC) March 23, 2020
The story ended up getting traction with other outlets, who simply reported that the man died because he self-medicated with the anti-malaria drug Trump has been promoting.
“Man dies after taking malaria medication touted by Trump as possible cure for coronavirus,” The Hill reported, in a tweet that has since been deleted.
— The Hill (@thehill) March 24, 2020
Axios was one of these outlets, though they later retreated from their previous framing by acknowledging that that they “did not reflect the full nature of the self-medication.”
We have deleted this tweet and corrected our story because it did not reflect the full nature of the self-medication done with an additive commonly used to clean fish tanks. https://t.co/0zucqRaIkI pic.twitter.com/3YY86rju2w
— Axios (@axios) March 24, 2020
While Trump continues to face scrutiny for promoting untested panaceas for the coronavirus, some on Twitter accused these outlets of burying crucial context — namely, that Trump never recommended anyone drink fish tank cleaner — to make the president look bad.
If Trump is as terrible as the media claims, why do they have to continually lie about him? https://t.co/rcx38Ehq1X
— jon gabriel (@exjon) March 24, 2020
I’m sorry, but if you lie to your audience and blame Trump for someone eating fish tank cleaner and dying, you are the enemy of the people.
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) March 24, 2020
If by “did not fully reflect” you mean “we made shit up because we were feeding the left-wing narrative,” then sure. https://t.co/1EWUqPTdZm
— Derek Hunter (@derekahunter) March 24, 2020
The Axios coverage of this is what made the story go viral, and their story didn’t say anything about it being fish medication or fish tank cleaner. And still no correction. https://t.co/FYJJ2rtiHi pic.twitter.com/532tye0bmi
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) March 24, 2020
This is tragic news of a man’s death & the illness of his wife. It’s a terrible story.
But it’s irresponsible for reporters to leave out or obscure the key fact that what they ingested was fish tank parasite treatment.
POTUS has made clear to consult with doctors.
— Tim Murtaugh – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TimMurtaugh) March 24, 2020
NBC’s fish tank cleaner story now enshrined in its Hall of Shame right next to Julie Swetnick and killing the Harvey Weinstein story. #greatjob
— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) March 24, 2020
There’s lying, evil, erroneous and destructive reports that eat away at the very fabric of the public’s trust in our news media… and then there’s this from @thehill.
Honestly, if someone doesn’t get fired… https://t.co/0yIKhGAlJr
— Larry O’Connor (@LarryOConnor) March 24, 2020
Since when has “fish tank cleaner” been considered “malaria medication”. Can’t imagine why trust in the media is at historic lows. https://t.co/R5yBebemRP
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) March 24, 2020
Non-conservatives too took issue with the idea of framing Trump as responsible for the man’s death.
I don’t think Trump should be talking about medications in the way he has but think it’s a bit of a stretch to blame him for someone ingesting fish tank cleaner.
What’s more problematic is people going on a run for these medications and pharmacies running out.
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) March 24, 2020
I thought they took chloroquine the medication and didn’t know it was fish tank cleaner until the very end of the thread, which is a huge difference in the framing of the story.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 24, 2020
Watch above, via MSNBC.
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