The former President did not instruct people to drink bleach, but he did suggest that the use of disinfectants as a treatment should be researched.
During a press conference on April 24. 2020, then-President Donald Trump spoke about research exploring the uses of disinfectant as a treatment for the COVID-19 virus. "Disinfectant knocks it out in a minute. Is there a way we can do something like that? By injection, inside, or almost as cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs. it would be interesting to check that," he said,
The claim was widely criticized by medical professionals and Trump's opponents. The statement also had direct consequences, with a reported 121% increase in referrals for accidental ingestion of household disinfectants following Trump's comments that month.
Media outlets reported that Trump suggested using disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19. However, while Trump's comments provoked an outcry and were widely regarded as irresponsible, Trump did not tell people to inject or ingest bleach.
Trump appeared to be discussing this with Deborah Birx, the chief Whitehouse coronavirus response coordinator. He also asked Birx if heat or light could be used to treat the virus.
Birx responded by saying, "Not as a treatment," Dr. Birx said. "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."
Several medical experts noted the dangers of inhaling, injecting or consuming disinfectant. There is no cure or proven treatment for COVID-19. The most effective way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is to build immunity to the virus through social distancing measures and receiving the vaccine, which has been found to be between 70-90% effective, according to various clinical trials.
Speaking to Time magazine, John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said: "Inhaling chlorine bleach would absolutely be the worst thing for the lungs. The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant.” However, disinfecting surfaces using cleaning products and washing hands using antibacterial products is an effective way of controlling the spread of the virus.
Joe Biden claimed that President Donald Trump said injecting bleach could help combat the virus. During the Presidential debates, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said: "President Trump says things like…crazy stuff he’s walking away from now, ‘inject bleach in your arm and that’s going to work,’ I’m not being facetious though; he actually said these things.” This is misleading, as some of the specifics of Trump's talk have been overstated. While Trump did ponder the uses of disinfectant, he did not explicitly instruct citizens to inject bleach.
MSNBC ran an online piece with a video clip and the headline, "Trump suggests injecting disinfectant into the body to treat coronavirus." Again, this is misleading, as Trump did not recommend injecting bleach, but stated his interest in research into the topic.
CNN reported on the incident and gathered responses from medical professionals. The outlet did not report that Trump said that people should use disinfectant but noted that Trump said that the idea should be looked into for research purposes. "Doctors are rejecting the idea floated by President Donald Trump that research should be done into whether chemical disinfectants could be injected into human bodies as a potential coronavirus treatment," an article from April 2020 states.
A fact check from PolitiFact looked into President Biden's comments and also concluded that Trump did not explicitly tell people to inject bleach.
Trump's statements should be treated with caution. There has been no recorded medical benefit of using disinfectants to fight off COVID-19 and medical professionals have universally rejected the comments. However, it is false to state that Trump told people to inject or consume disinfectant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.