The Slatest

“Supposing You Brought the Light Inside the Body”

Donald Trump raises his hand while asking a question to the William Bryan, who is standing at a podium.
Light, huh? Disinfectant? Hear me out … Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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President Donald Trump is not up to the task of leading the American response to the coronavirus. If that wasn’t clear to you already, it likely never will be. Only an autopsy of the president’s beat-up brain would tell us what’s really at play here; until then it will be speculation. But something’s wrong. The latest example came during Thursday’s press conference when Trump delved into a jaw-dropping session of musing about the impact of light (and disinfectant) on the virus. The Trump riff came on the heels of a presentation by William Bryan, the acting undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, explaining what had been learned about the life span and transmissibility of the virus over the past couple months. The takeaway: Light (from the sun), heat, and humidity appear to degrade the virus, as does disinfectant. That sounds like good news considering we are heading into the summer months.

It was an ever-so-slightly technical presentation by Bryan, but it did the trick—it conveyed the information without peddling false hope or miracle cures. But, less than 6 feet away, it also seemed to trigger some out-of-the-box thinking in the president. Like a lawnmower in summer, with that one pull of the cord, Trump’s intellectual engine wheezed to life. Light, huh? Disinfectant? Hear me out … And then the president of the United States stepped to the podium and said this:

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 hasn’t been checked, but I think you’re going to test it. 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. Sounds interesting. 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 tremendous number on the lungs, so it would 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 kills it in one minute, that’s pretty powerful.

The files? They’re in the computer?

Trump’s statement is so ludicrous, so potentially dangerous, that the British manufacturer of Lysol and Dettol disinfectants issued a statement Friday in response. “We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the Reckitt Benckiser Group said. “With all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.”

Later in the briefing Trump turned to Deborah Birx to see what she thought of his great idea of using sunlight to treat a virus. “Not as a treatment,” Birx replied. “I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing when you have a fever. It helps your body respond. But not as—” “I think that’s a great thing to look at,” Trump interrupted.

This is not the thinking of a grown adult, one who received a formal education.

For more on the response to COVID-19, listen to today’s What Next: TBD.