We’re in a precarious time, one in which a highly contagious novel coronavirus has killed nearly 100,000 people, among them my friend and public relations leader Jim Tsokanos. This is also a time when we need good information based on medical science and data, not gut feelings or unproven theories.
Which brings me to President Trump’s astounding claim that he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. “What do you have to lose?” asked Trump awhile back.
“It can kill you,” replied Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. Interestingly enough, the president learned about hydroxychloroquine from, where else, Cavuto’s colleague, Laura Ingraham who encouraged its use.
The drug has yet to complete any clinical trials beyond a small one in France conducted by microbiologist Dr. Didier Raoult, who was profiled in the May 17 New York Times Magazine. This is the trial Dr. Anthony Fauci has referred to as “anecdotal” evidence that hydroxychloroquine has shown some benefit in patients who’ve contracted coronavirus. But far more research is needed on the drug, Fauci adds, and especially its possible lethal side effects.
So who are you going to believe? Dr. Fauci or Dr. Trump? And therein lies the communications problem with the administration’s continuing mixed messages. We are told by Fauci and other task force experts the disease is continuing to spread while the president and many of his allies say open the economy up, return to work, the worst is behind us; take hydroxychloroquine and call your doctor in the morning.
This lack of messaging discipline serves only to confuse and misinform Americans, many of whom are exhausted by the difficult but still necessary lockdown protocols. Their frustration is understandable, but crowding into bars as many did last week when the Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated the governor’s shelter in place order, the risks go up exponentially.
There’s a method to Trump’s messaging madness, however. The one thing he had going for his re-election was the economy, the one he inherited from his predecessor that was turbocharged with his massive tax cuts for the 1%. COVID-19 flatlined it and, now, with his approval numbers falling, with nearly 40 million Americans unemployed, his re-election is very much in doubt as is the Senate’s Republican majority come November.
Thus, it appears political expediency eclipses public health safeguards. When we need real leadership, we get self-serving recklessness from the top, something Senate Democrats hammered Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about at a hearing.
“How many workers should give their lives to increase our GDP by half a percent?” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Mnuchin.
Kevin Foley owns KEF Media in Atlanta