Trump claims he was being sarcastic about coronavirus disinfectant comments

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President Trump on Friday insisted he was being “sarcastic” when he seemingly suggested that household disinfectants could be used as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

After signing the nearly $500 billion “phase 3.5” coronavirus stimulus relief bill into law, the president was asked about comments he made during Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing.

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“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you,” Trump said. “Disinfectant for doing this, maybe on the hands, would work. I was asking…when they use disinfectant it goes away in less than a minute.”

He added: “I was asking a very sarcastic question to reporters in the room about disinfectants on the inside…that was done in a sarcastic way.”

The president’s defense came after he and officials during Thursday's press conference discussed how light and disinfectants may have the potential to treat COVID-19.

Bill Bryan, the head of the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, presented the findings of the federal government's study on sunlight, humidity and temperature's effect on the coronavirus -- as well as various disinfectants on the virus when it is on surfaces. Trump then reacted to the comments.

"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 you're going to test it," Trump said, looking over to Bryan.

"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 gonna test that, too. Sounds interesting, right?”

He continued: "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, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number, so it will be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds, it sounds interesting to me. So we'll see.

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"But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that's, that's pretty powerful.”

After Trump's initial comments, in which he did suggest there might be a way to "do something like that by injection inside or, or almost a cleaning" after changing the topic from light to disinfectants -- though he made clear it was not a definitive recommendation -- and said "medical doctors" should be involved in any tests, a reporter asked Bryan to clarify what the president said.

"The president mentioned the idea of a cleaner. Is the bleach and isopropyl alcohol he mentioned, there's no scenario that could be injected into a person, is there?" the reporter asked.

"No, I'm here to talk about the findings that we had in the study. We don't do that within that lab, at our labs," Bryan responded.

On Friday, the president went on to maintain that he was asking his medical officials to “look into whether or not sun and disinfectant on the hands can help us.”

“He came in yesterday saying they did a very big study,” Trump said of Bryan, noting they found that “sun has a massive impact negatively on this virus, in other words, it does not live well with humidity, with sunlight, with heat, and disinfectant.”

He added: “I thought it was clear.”

Early in the day Friday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed the media had taken the president’s comments out of context.

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said in a statement. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”

Nevertheless, on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency warned Americans “do not ingest disinfectant products,” after the president’s remarks.

As of Friday, the U.S. reported more than 871,200 cases of COVID-19 and more than 50,100 deaths.