On Friday AEST, US President Donald Trump suggested injecting disinfectant as a way to treat coronavirus at one of his then-daily press briefings.
In the days since, manufacturers of disinfectant scrambled to tell Americans not to drink or inject their products. Mr Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement warning people to “not ingest disinfectant products”, as did the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
@USCPSC tweet: QUINN THE QUARANTINE FOX: Cleaning products are poisonous, America! Make sure you keep those cleaning products in their original bottles and locked up out of sight and out of reach of kids!
Even Australia’s own Chief Medical Officer made headlines for his reaction to the suggestion.
And the fallout from the comments doesn’t look like it’s over yet. Starting with …
Trump’s daily press conferences might be over
According to the White House, Mr Trump has held 49 press briefings since the end of February.
Most have been on a daily schedule, and many have lasted hours as the President took questions alongside health experts like Doctor Anthony Fauci and sparred with reporters about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
After his claims about disinfectant went viral, Mr Trump kept the next briefing to a 30-minute statement and took no questions from journalists. At a later White House event, Mr Trump said he was being sarcastic when he made the comments.
He hasn’t held a press briefing since, instead tweeting that the daily briefings are “not worth the time & effort!”:
@realDonaldTrump: What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!
New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said the decision to keep holding the press conferences would be “entirely” up to Mr Trump.
The suggestion to inject disinfectant was the latest of a string of claims from the press briefings that Mr Trump has walked back or dropped entirely — including assurances the US economy would be open by Easter and promotion of an anti-malaria treatment that hasn’t been the subject of large-scale study.
The White House is reportedly now debating whether to continue to hold the briefings without Mr Trump, according to the Associated Press.
Former allies are on the outer
Both the Wall Street Journal and Politico have reported that the Trump Administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is on the way out.
Mr Azar is the current head of the government department tasked with leading the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
According to Politico, Mr Trump’s coronavirus co-ordinator Deborah Birx is in line to replace Mr Azar. She went viral for her own reaction to his disinfectant comments.
Mr Trump has called the reports of Mr Azar’s departure “Fake News”:
@realDonaldTrump: is going to be “fired” by me are Fake News. The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask. Alex is doing an excellent job!
On Twitter, Mr Trump has even lashed out at Fox News by claiming the network “don’t get what’s happening” and calling for his supporters to switch to an alternative network. It’s not the first time.
Trump hasn’t left the White House in ‘many months’
At least according to the US President himself.
Responding to a New York Times story that alleged the President spends many hours of his day watching cable television, Mr Trump gave his own version of what his day looks like:
@realDonaldTrump: I work from early in the morning until late at night, haven’t left the White House in many months (except to launch Hospital Ship Comfort) in order to take care of Trade Deals, Military Rebuilding etc., and then I read a phony story in the failing @nytimes about my work….
In lieu of a press briefing on Sunday (local time), Mr Trump fired off a string of tweets attacking media organisations as “third rate”, “Lamestream Media” and “total slime balls”.
The Associated Press reports a limited travel schedule is now being drawn up for Mr Trump in the coming months — a symbolic showing that the American economy is reopening.
It’s not known which states might be on Mr Trump’s list to visit.
And in the background, the election is looming
The race to be Mr Trump’s opponent in November is over. And despite the victor being confined to his literal basement in Delaware, the campaign is never far away.
A string of polling in crucial midwestern swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan found support from the states that delivered Mr Trump the White House in 2016 is slipping away to his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Even in Florida, where the Republican Governor has been one of Mr Trump’s biggest allies in the push to reopen the economy, a new Fox News poll found the race between Mr Trump and Mr Biden is almost neck-and-neck.
The same poll found a majority of respondents believed Mr Trump was too slow to respond to coronavirus.
Congressional Republicans are also reporting significant fundraising disadvantages compared to their Democratic opponents, while some Republicans have expressed concerns Mr Trump’s performance could put the US Senate in reach of Democrats.
Next week, it will be six months until Americans head to the polls in November (local time).