It was billed as a “medical evaluation” of the president on Fox News. Instead, President Donald Trump’s first on-camera television interview since he announced he tested positive for COVID-19 last week was a made-for-tv spectacle in which the only real purpose seemed to be to tout how great the commander in chief was feeling. Dr. Marc Siegel, the Fox News resident medical expert, lobbed some softball questions at President Donald Trump and didn’t push back when he didn’t get any answers or even when the answers contradicted information that had already been made public. At the end of the pre-recorded segment on Tucker Carlson’s show, Americans knew little more about the president’s health than they did before the interview. But it was clear how they were supposed to feel. “By any measure, it’s been a remarkable turnaround,” Carlson said.
In one of the few instances in which Trump seemed to reveal anything substantial about his health, the president claimed he was “medication free,” although later in the interview he seemed to qualify that statement. “Right now, I am medication free,” Trump said. “I’m not taking any medications as of probably eight hours ago. I’m medication free which, frankly, makes me feel good. I don’t like medication.” Trump later made it seem as though that statement wasn’t as definitive as it sounded. “I think really nothing,” Trump said when asked what he was taking “right now.” “We pretty much finished and now we’ll see how things go. But pretty much nothing. We’ve had our final doses of just about everything.” He also said he wanted to send the experimental antibody cocktail he received to any American who needs it “free of charge.”
In another morsel of news, Trump said doctors found “some congestion” in his lungs. “They tested the lungs,” Trump said, spending lots of time marveling at the equipment in Walter Reed. “Initially, I think they had some congestion in there, but ultimately it tested good, and with each day it got better, and I think that’s why they wanted me to stay, frankly.” That really doesn’t reveal much information but it’s more than his White House doctor, Sean Conley, said last week when he revealed that scans showed “expected findings” and didn’t elaborate.
Siegel didn’t ask a key question that has been the subject of much speculation: When did the president last test negative before testing positive? He did, however, ask Trump about testing he received after his hospital stay, although didn’t receive any kind of clarity from the president except a strong suggestion that Trump still hasn’t tested negative. “I have been retested,” Trump said. “I haven’t even found out numbers yet or anything … I know I’m at either the bottom of the scale or free.” It seems Trump may have been talking about viral load, but he never clarified what that meant and Siegel never asked. CDC guidelines detail that a patient can end isolation after two consecutive negative tests done at least 24 hours apart.
At one point in the interview, Trump insisted he had not experienced difficulty breathing even though there is video that appears to show the president breathing heavily and gasping for air when he returned to the White House from the hospital on Monday. “I didn’t feel strong, I didn’t have a problem with breathing, which a lot of people seem to have. I had none of that,” Trump said. The claim came despite confirmation from Trump’s own doctor, Sean Conley, that he received oxygen and reports from the White House that the president did in fact have trouble breathing and he was sent to the hospital when his blood oxygen level had dropped dangerously low. Trump’s words didn’t directly contradict Conley, who had made it sound like oxygen had practically been forced on the president. “He was fairly adamant that he didn’t need it. He was not short of breath. He was tired, had the fever, and that was about it,” Conley said.
During the interview, Trump said he had no idea how he caught the virus. “I don’t know. They had some big events at the White House and perhaps there,” Trump said. “Nobody really knows for sure. Numerous people have contracted it, but, you know, people have contracted it all over the world.” Trump added that “one thing” he has learned is that “this is a contagious disease.”
The entire interview with Siegel “resembled the type of propaganda we’re used to seeing from foreign dictators, pumped out via state-sponsored media,” notes the Los Angeles Times’ Lorraine Ali. “Russia’s Vladimir Putin showing off his muscular physique to prove he’s still virile, the lethal Saddam Hussein hugging children and aiding the less fortunate. But this was coming from Washington.”
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