A President Who Defies Science

“I’m taking it for about a week and a half now and … I’m still here.” On Monday, seeming pleased — thrilled — with his stunt, Donald Trump announced to universal astonishment that he was taking hydroxychloroquine every day to ward off COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the billionaire has alternated between the two tunes he´s been playing for years: rejection of science and provocation.

While facing the pandemic that has disrupted the lead-up to the election — whether praising an antimalarial drug with unsubstantiated efficacy against COVID-19, obstinately refusing to wear a mask or offering magical theories about potentially injecting bleach into the human body — the American president is going very, very far.

Each time he passes it off as a type of popular common sense. To explain why he had decided to take hydroxychloroquine, he tossed out, “You know the expression I’ve used, ‘What have you got to lose?'” Even though no study shows it to have a preventive effect.

Fearless about airing certain conspiracy theories, he feeds defiance towards elites, that catchall concept that often also includes researchers, to further cement his links with an electoral base that feels forgotten by Washington.

The scientific world, his Democratic opponents and some rather isolated voices in the Republican camp all decry this dangerous game. Yet Trump continues in the same vein.

It is the same approach he has long used for global warming, which he takes every opportunity to mock. Before his election, despite scientific studies on the subject, he often drew a link between vaccines and autism. Lately, he has changed tack.

His relationship with doctors illustrates his position. Similar to his advisers, the former New York businessman seems to expect more from them than a simple scientific opinion.

A Natural Ability

In December 2015, mid-campaign, he published a letter from his personal doctor, Harold Bornstein. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” he asserted. He would later admit that the “whole” letter had been “dictated’ to him by the septuagenarian candidate.

In 2018, White House physician Ronny Jackson painted an image of a president in “excellent health” before letting himself get carried away into non-medical territory. “He’s fit for duty. I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even for the remainder of another term if he’s elected.”

The doctor, reserved and respected under the Obama presidency, has become one of the most fervent Trump supporters. And one of his most zealous defenders in leading the charge against his Democratic predecessor.

The occupant of the White House tirelessly praises his own instinct and regularly invokes his uncle, John Trump, who died in 1985 and who was for a long time a professor at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [as proof of his credibility.

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, surrounded by white coats, he got carried away. “You know my uncle was a great […] He was a great super-genius: Dr. John Trump,” he explained, before praising his own understanding of the medical challenge of coronavirus.

“I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said: ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

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