Donald Trump defends disproved malarial drug – again

President Donald Trump has issued a strong defence of the disproved use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, hours after social media companies deleted videos he shared promoting its use which they saw as potentially harmful.

The president, in a marked shift from a more measured approach taken toward the virus in recent days, took to Twitter to promote the anti-malarial drug as a treatment for Covid-19, and to amplify criticism of Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

In a White House briefing, Mr Trump defended his decision to promote a viral video of a group of doctors promoting the use of the drug on Monday, even though his own administration withdrew emergency authorisation for its use against the coronavirus.

"I think they're very respected doctors," Mr Trump said, adding they believed in the drug.

"There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it."

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Donald Trump in controversial photo op
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks through a colonnade of police in riot gear while walking to the White House from St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he gestures, alongside US Attorney General William Barr (L), White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien (2nd-L) and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves to journalists as he returns to the White House after posing for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Members of the Secret Service counter assault team return to the White House after U.S. President Donald Trump posed for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 as police officers stand guard amid protests. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a bible as he walks through Lafayette Park after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
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The doctors, members of a group called America's Frontline Doctors, took part in an event organised by Tea Party Patriots Action, a dark money group that has helped fund a pro-Trump political action committee.

Scientific studies have shown hydroxychloroquine can do more harm than good when used to treat symptoms of Covid-19.

Mr Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and others shared video of the event on Facebook and Twitter, prompting both companies to step in and remove the content as part of an aggressive push to keep the sites free of potentially harmful information about the virus.

However, the deletions came after more than 17 million people had already seen one version of the video circulating on the web.

The decision to remove the videos sparked conservative claims of "censorship," with Simone Gold, one of the doctors, tweeting that "there are always opposing views in medicine".

Donald Trump

"Treatment options for Covid-19 should be debated, and spoken about among our colleagues in the medical field," she wrote. "They should never, however, be censored and silenced."

Others stressed the differences between medical opinion and peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Many high-quality studies have found no evidence that hydroxychloroquine, when used with or without the antibiotic azithromycin – as touted many times by Mr Trump – helps treat coronavirus infection or prevent serious disease from it.

They include studies commissioned by the US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organisation and universities in the US and abroad.

Because of the lack of benefit and the risks of serious side effects such as heart rhythm problems, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently revoked its brief authorisation of emergency use of the drug for Covid-19. NIH treatment guidelines also specifically recommend against hydroxychloroquine's use, except in formal studies.

Still, at Tuesday's White House briefing, Mr Trump said of the drug: "Many doctors think it's extremely good and some people don't. Some people I think it's become very political. I happen to believe in it. I would take it. I ... took it for a 14 day period. And I'm here. Right?"

In addition to sharing the video, Mr Trump retweeted several tweets attacking the credibility of Dr Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force.

Fact Check Week

Later, Mr Trump appeared to back away from his criticism of Dr Fauci, saying, "I get along with him very well" and even appearing envious of his widespread approval rating.

"He's got a very good approval rating, and I like that," Mr Trump said.

He said Dr Fauci and White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx worked for him, "And yet they're highly thought of but nobody likes me".

Dr Fauci has become an off-and-on target of Mr Trump and some of his White House aides and outside allies, who disagreed with the doctor's early recommendation to shut down the economy as a way to slow the virus, which is surging again in parts of the country.

Mr Trump, in recent interviews, has described Dr Fauci as "a bit of an alarmist" and accused him of making "mistakes" in his coronavirus guidance.

Joe Biden

Dr Fauci on Tuesday said he would deal with the attacks by keeping his head down and doing his job. He also backed the conclusions of the FDA and others about hydroxychloroquine and Covid-19.

Asked if he can do his job while Mr Trump publicly questioned his credibility, Dr Fauci said the stakes were too high not to stay involved.

"We're in the middle of a crisis with regard to an epidemic, a pandemic. This is what I do," Dr Fauci said on ABC's Good Morning America. "This is what I've been trained for my entire professional life and I'll continue to do it."

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube began scrubbing their sites of the video of the doctors on Monday. Conservative news outlets, groups and internet personalities shared it.

More than four million people in the US have been infected by the coronavirus and the death toll is nearing 150,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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