A timeline of Trump's musings on the false idea of injecting 'light' and 'disinfectant' to treat coronavirus — from a presentation to Trump's claim he was being 'sarcastic'

U.S. President Trump leads the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in WashingtonReuters
  • At a press conference on Thursday night, US President Donald Trump, pondered, aloud, whether shining "very powerful light" inside the human body or injecting "disinfectant" could kill off the coronavirus.
  • Trump said Friday that he was just being "sarcastic" when he mused about ingesting people with "light" and "disinfectant" to treat COVID-19.
  • But earlier, Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, defended the comments. "When he gets new information he likes to talk that through," she told Fox News.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control also reminded people on Friday that, "Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly."
  • Here's a timeline of Trump's comments.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At a press conference on Thursday night, President Donald Trump, pondered, aloud, whether shining "very powerful light" inside the human body or injecting "disinfectant" could kill off the coronavirus.

Here's a timeline of how Trump came to make this claim — and the subsequent fallout:

Wednesday, April 22: A study is reportedly presented to the White House task force on the coronavirus

According to a Friday report from The Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security's acting undersecretary for science and technology, William Bryan, presented a study about the "possibility of heat, humidity, and light to kill the virus, as well as the effectiveness of disinfectants in killing it on surfaces" to the coronavirus task force.Advertisement

A source told The Post that some on the task force, including White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, expressed their concerns about the study and/or its presentation. However, Vice President Mike Pence and others wanted Bryan to present the information at the briefing to give the public some good news, The Post reported.

Thursday, April 23: Before the White House press briefing

The Post reported that Bryan gave President Trump a "15-minute" presentation on the study ahead of the press briefing.

Bryan, The Post reported, was to present the study at the briefing, and Trump was to read prepared remarks.
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Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Washington.AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Thursday, April 23: The briefing

Bryan presented the study, which focused on surfaces, not humans. Trump, during his remarks, said the following, as transcribed by Business Insider's Grace Panetta:Advertisement

"So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."

During the presentation, Birx was caught on camera reacting to Trump's comments, and when asked by Trump about using heat and light to treat viruses she said: "Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But I've not seen heat or light."

Thursday, April 23: After the briefing, the fallout begins

Some in the administration discouraged the thought. "No, I certainly wouldn't recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told CNN on Thursday night.

Doctors also began begging people not to ingest or inject disinfectants.Advertisement

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Friday, April 24: Companies and government agencies warn not to ingest or inject disinfectants, and the White House works to spin Trump's comments

By Friday morning, however, the president's spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany, was claiming the comments were merely taken "out of context."

Birx, asked about the president's comments, told Fox News for a segment that is to air in full on Saturday, "When he gets new information he likes to talk that through, out loud, and really have that dialogue. And so that's what dialogue he was having."Advertisement

By Friday afternoon, amid concern from medical professionals and ridicule from his critics, the president himself decided on a different approach: It had all been a joke, albeit an attempt at humor that no one seemed to get, Fox News included.

"I was asking a very sarcastic question to reporters in the room about disinfectants on the inside," Trump claimed.

The US Centers for Disease Control, meanwhile, wasn't taking any chances. "Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly," it tweeted early on Friday.Advertisement

The makers of Lysol, too, said in a statement on Friday that "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)."

Burger King also tweeted, "not sure why we need to be the ones to tell you this, but don't drink bleach." And as Grace Panetta previously reported for Business Insider, "Maryland said its coronavirus hotline has received over 100 calls from people inquiring about President Trump's recent musings about ingesting disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19."Advertisement

At Friday evening's press briefing, neither Trump nor Pence took questions from the press.

As for the president's previously mused-about coronavirus treatment: The US Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it is "aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine."

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