It is often said that President Trump recommended that people drink or inject bleach. This is simply not True. The President suggested that research into the therapeutic effects of light, heat and disinfectant, be carried out. Faced with people pointing out that disinfectant taken internally could cause harm, he later suggested that he was being sarcastic. There is no evidence in his phrasing or intonation to suggest that this later statement is true either. He was more likely to be trying to avoid responsibility what he had said.

To me, the whole event resembles the pointy headed boss making an ignorant suggestion, confident in the experience that everyone will go along with him and praise him, because that is what happens in business – everyone knows their place. It’s private, its ‘brainstorming’, and staff may look at each other wonderingly, and say something like “sure boss, we’ll put that brilliant idea out there and see what happens”. They hope he will forget it in a couple of weeks, because he almost always moves on, but if he doesn’t they will either say that its being worked on, or that its a great idea, but its dangerous, or the doctors don’t like it or something – anything to move on…. Business exists to protect the employer, because people’s livelihoods depend on it. You never push the boss into a corner – you just let stupidity be – that is the safest way to go.

Capitalism and hierarchy tend to block sensible decisions. This seems to be a story about a person who shoots off their mouth, no problem there, but can’t admit they might have been wrong, which probably is a problem.

So pardon me while we get some context to try and see what might have been happening.

Injecting what? A suggestion for research

First off, we have the triggering event.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: We’re also testing disinfectants readily available. We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus, specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids. And I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds, and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing — just spraying it on and letting it go. You rub it and it goes away even faster. We’re also looking at other disinfectants, specifically looking at the COVID-19 virus in saliva…..

Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing, White House 23 April

Bryan has previously mentioned the effects of light on the virus on surfaces… but that is not the problem. Here, Bryan is clearly talking about disinfectants outside the body, but he mentions saliva – which can be a boundary breaking substance.

The President’s response is to improvise ‘ideas’ around this….

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it.

The employee has played along as expected – saying ‘great idea we’ll follow that up…’

[THE PRESIDENT:] And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.

Employee realises that the boss is more serious with crazy idea than he thought, but he deflects to make it someone else’s problem. But the boss is on a roll.

THE PRESIDENT: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we 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 would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.

The boss lets his innate skill and intelligence run away with him. If stuff works outside the body, then it should work equally well inside the body. Pure logic

[THE PRESIDENT:] So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful….

Maybe the President realises that not everyone here is an employee paid to praise him and he backs off a little

[THE PRESIDENT:] We’ve — I once mentioned that maybe it does go away with heat and light. And people didn’t like that statement very much. The — the fake news didn’t like it at all. And I just threw it out as a suggestion, but it seems like that’s the case, because when it’s on a surface that would last for a long time, when that surface is outside, it goes away very quickly. It dies very quickly with the sun.

He is just acting like a boss, making a vague “brilliant suggestion”. He has forgotten he is President of the US, with followers who believe everything he says, and that this is a health briefing. Careless words cost lives. So he has landed himself into a problem… which is revealed shortly when…..

Doctors emphasise that it is not safe to inject bleach and disinfectant, as they are toxic [that is why they work to kill bacteria and viruses] and so please do not do it. For example:

John Shields, MD, FAAOS

Please do not ingest or inject disinfectant.

I feel like one should not have to say this.

@jointdocShields, Twitter 24 April

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who is an employee found it harder to comment, and appeared to prevaricate on an interview….

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FDA: So, I think the data that were presented at the press conference today were really important in terms of what kills the virus. And I believe the president was asking a question that many Americans are asking, which is, okay, this is what kills the virus, it’s a physical agent, in this case UV light. How could that be applied to kill the virus in, for example, a human being?

We have plenty of examples in medicine where light therapy has been used for treatment of certain diseases. So, it’s a natural question that I as a doctor would have expected to hear from someone as a natural extension of the data that were presented.

ANDERSON COOPER: But — but just from a medical standpoint, I mean, you wouldn’t — would you — I mean, there are — there’s people who are listening, obviously, to the president of the United States and — and take what he says very seriously.

Are you concerned at all, from a medical standpoint, of somebody, you know, injecting themselves with a disinfectant or, you know, hearing what the president said and — and trying to experiment on themselves, thinking that might be something worth looking at? There’s — is there any evidence about taking a disinfectant that’s used, you know, on the table where I’m sitting and using it internally? That doesn’t seem like a good idea from my — I mean, am I wrong?

HAHN: Yes, I think it’s an excellent point you’re making. You — you — we certainly wouldn’t want, as a physician, someone to take matters in their own hands. I think this is something that a patient would want to talk to their physician about. And — and no, I certainly wouldn’t recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant.


No condemnation, no explicit statement the President’s suggestion could be dangerous – just he would not recommend it

[HAHN:] Again, this is a conversation that occurs every day in America between a patient and a doctor. I’ve been in that position. I’m sure Dr. Gupta has as well. And it’s really important we address them because people will ask those questions of us.

Really? Every day, patients are asking you if they should be injecting disinfectant to fight their disease?

GUPTA:… I mean, there’s no — those questions may be getting asked, but there’s absolutely no merit to that. That doesn’t need to be studied. You can already say that that doesn’t work, right?

HAHN: And I — and I think, Sanjay, that — that that is exactly what a patient would say to a doctor, and that would be the answer of the medical experts to anybody who answered that question.

COOPER: It does not work.

But it can’t apparently be said by the FDA Commissioner, that the President’s suggestion was not one that doctors would think plausible.

We also might need to point out that the President was also supporting the use of hydroxychloroquine at the time. An official announcement said:

28 million tablets of Hydroxychloroquine have been shipped across the country from the Strategic National Stockpile.

President Donald J. Trump Has Led A Historic Mobilization To Combat The Coronavirus. White House. 14 April 2020

There was some dispute as to whether the substance was of use for Covid. When asked one time, the President said.

[THE PRESIDENT:] I never spoke to a scientist.  But I will tell you this: I did speak with the President of Honduras just a little while ago, and I didn’t bring it up; he brought it up.  He said they use the hydroxychloroquine.  And he said the results were so incredible with hydroxychloroquine.  This happened an hour ago.

I just spoke to him, President of Honduras, and he said — and I guess we made some available to them or whatever.  He was thanking me.  And I said, “How has the result been?”  And he said it’s been incredible.

Remarks by President Trump at a Signing Ceremony for H.R. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. White House 24 April

Hidden Sarcasm? or Just can’t be wrong?

So let’s move on to Trump’s defense of his statements.

Can he simply say “I was making a suggestion for research, for research, and I was wrong not to think that people might take my words more seriously than I’d intended. So let’s be clear no one should inject disinfectant at home.” Or something else simple and to the point, which accepts his responsibility for clearing things up.

The answer seems to be ‘no’. He has lived as a boss who is never wrong, and who fires people for disagreeing with him. Face is far more important than truth.

Q Mr. President, can you clarify your comments about injections of disinfectant? They’re quite provocative.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen.

Remarks by President Trump at a Signing Ceremony for H.R. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, White House 24th April

The fault is clearly in the unperceptive reporters who don’t understand his wonderful sense of humour. Nothing to do with him. He has no responsibility for their stupidity.

[THE PRESIDENT:] Now, disinfectant, for doing this maybe on the hands, would work. And I was asking the question of the gentleman who was there yesterday — Bill — because when they say that something will last three or four hours or six hours, but if the sun is out or if they use disinfectant, it goes away in less than a minute. Did you hear about this yesterday?

But I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands, and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.


‘Ok?’ indeed. Let’s make this clear. This is Not My Fault. Not my fault. It’s you who are the idiots who don’t get my sophisticated wit.

Q But you were asking your medical experts to look into it. Were you being sarcastic with them?

The response is “Let’s change the subject from disinfectant.”

THE PRESIDENT: No. No, no, no, no. To look into whether or not sun and disinfectant on the hands — but whether or not sun can help us. Because, I mean, he came in yesterday and he said they’ve done a big study. This is a study. This isn’t where he hasn’t done it. This is where they’ve come in with a final report that sun has a massive impact, negatively, on this virus. In other words, it does not live well with humidity, and it doesn’t live well with sun, sunlight, heat. It doesn’t live well with heat and sun and disinfectant. And that’s what I brought out. And I thought it was clear.

Okay? Anything else?….

Later in the same interview he is faced with another set of questions from a few reporters, which seem to reveal the enormous trouble the President has with the suggestion he was possibly wrong. It is just totally unnerving for him.

Q Mr. President, just to follow up on the comments from yesterday, you said you were being sarcastic, but some people may have misunderstood you. Do you want to just clarify to America?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I wish they wouldn’t — I wish they wouldn’t —

No he really can’t bring himself to even clarify.

Q Do you want to —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think I did.

This is a boss or an immature teenager. “I’ve already done it” when they haven’t.

Q Can you just clarify to Americans —

THE PRESIDENT: But I do think this —

Q — that you don’t want people to ingest that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I do think that disinfectant on the hands could have a very good effect.

He shifts back to a different defensible position, because he can’t say, “please don’t inject it, or ingest it”.

[THE PRESIDENT:] Now, Bill is going back to check that in the laboratory. You know, it’s an amazing laboratory, by the way. It’s amazing the work they do. So he’s going to check.

The doctors are going to do the experiments with disinfectant internally? Perhaps he is implying that they are going to check the effect of disinfectant on the skin – which they have already done?

He made a great, sarcastic suggestion, which will be followed up. This seems to be typical spoilt boss behaviour. Again, even though he is defending himself by saying he didn’t mean it and it was a trap to trap dumb reporters, he still can’t let his brilliant idea go.

[THE PRESIDENT:] Because a hard surface — this is a hard surface, I guess, maybe depending on whose hands you’re talking about, right?

People’s hands are like formica? or steel? He still can’t admit that the ingestion idea was not sensible for normal people to try out.

[THE PRESIDENT:] But this is a hard surface. And disinfectant — the disinfectant has an unbelievable — it wipes it out. You know, you saw it: Sun and heat and humidity wipe it out.

And this is from tests. They’ve been doing these tests for, you know, a number of months. And the result — so then I said, “Well, how do we do it inside the body or even outside the body, with the hands?” And disinfectant, I think, would work. He thinks would work. But you use it when you’re — when you’re doing your hands. I guess that’s one of the reasons they say wash your hands. But whether it’s washing your hands or disinfectant on your hands, it’s very good.

So he flips from inside to outside, because despite him being sarcastic, of which there is no evidence, he still made a good suggestion. Anything to avoid being wrong.

[THE PRESIDENT:] So they’re going to start looking at that. And there is a way of, you know, if light — if sun — sun itself — that sun has a tremendous impact on it. It kills it like in one minute. It goes from what was it? Hours to, like, one minute. It’s dead.

So I said, “You got to go back and look.” But I’d like them now to look as it pertains to the human body, not just sitting on a railing or sitting on a wall. I’d like them to look as it pertains — because maybe there’s something there. They have to work with the doc — I’m not a doctor. They have to work with the doctors. But maybe there is something to light and the human body and helping people that are dying. Okay?

Q But just to clarify — just to clarify that, sir: Are you — are you encouraging Amer- — you’re not encouraging Americans to ingest —

THE PRESIDENT: No, of course — no. Of course.

Q — disinfectant?

THE PRESIDENT: That was — interior wise, it’s said sarcastically. It was — it was put in the form of a question to a group of extraordinarily hostile people, namely the fake news media.

Okay. So —

Lets come back to this being some one else’s fault for not understanding me.

Q Some doctors felt they needed to clarify that after your comments.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, of course. All they had to do was see it was — just, you know, the way it was asked. I was — I was looking at you.

He breaks into confusion. And starts attacking the reporter.

Q No, you weren’t, sir. I wasn’t there yesterday. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I know. I know.

He can’t even be wrong about that – he knew he was mistaken, a sentence ago?

Q [different reporter] You were looking at Dr. Birx.

THE PRESIDENT: What’s that?

Q You were looking at Dr. Birx.

THE PRESIDENT: I was looking at Bill. I was looking at the doctor. I was looking at some of the reporters. I don’t know if you were there. Were you there? I don’t think you were there.

Q I was there, and I watched you ask her.

THE PRESIDENT: No, not you. Not you. Not you. You were there. You — if you’re there, I never forget. You were —

Breaks down into confusion when challenged again

Q I wasn’t there yesterday, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: You were not?

Q No, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I didn’t think you were there.

Yes he was right all along. Of course.

Q Just, Mr. President — Mr. President, I know that you continue to say — you’re obviously —

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, hold it one second.

Q Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: Any other questions from any other people?

Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Breaks it off. Its too confusing when people listen to him, and don’t give him the breaks a boss is entitled to.

This is probably just what you don’t want in a President, but apparently common in business.