- President Donald Trump announced Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine daily for the past couple of weeks.
- Currently, the drug is not approved for use in COVID-19 patients or for preventing COVID-19, though several clinical trials are underway.
- In April, researchers working on one trial warned that they had found higher rates of death in Veterans Affairs patients taking hydroxychloroquine.
- Late Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed concerns about Trump’s use of the drug, citing a risk factor, “especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group… morbidly obese, they say.”
Trumps Says He’s Taking HCQ
After continually touting hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he’s been taking the drug daily for about two weeks.
That announcement was immediately met with concern among many because hydroxychloroquine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective treatment against COVID-19. The most notable reaction, however, came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who described Trump as “morbidly obese.”
“He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group…morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
Hydroxychloroquine, along with chloroquine, is being investigated as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19. Another study is also looking into whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to prevent frontline healthcare workers from contracting the coronavirus.
While announcing he was taking the drug, Trump referenced the fact that it’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it works against COVID-19 or that it’s safe for people to take to prevent getting COVID-19.
In fact, on April 24, the FDA said as much when it issued a safety alert on the drug, saying both it and chloroquine could have serious side effects. In the alert, it warned people only to take hydroxychloroquine under the close supervision of a doctor in a hospital setting or in a clinical trial.
In that warning, the FDA also said it is aware of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.”
One study that may have played a role in this alert published preliminary findings several days earlier. That study, conducted on hundreds of Veterans Affairs patients across the country, found higher rates of death in patients taking hydroxychloroquine as opposed to those who weren’t.
To be clear, this study still hasn’t been peer reviewed and published in a medical journal, but its research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Trump dismissed that VA study on Monday when talking to reporters, saying that the researchers weren’t big fans of him.
“And if you look at that phony report that was put out, that report, all that hydroxy was given to people that were in extraordinarily bad condition, extraordinarily bad,” he claimed. “People that were dying.”
In their study, researchers did say they adjusted for comorbidities. That’s because patients averaged around 70-years-old and many of them had other pre-existing conditions. Still, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily in “extraordinarily bad condition” during the study.
As far as why Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, it seems to be more of a preventative measure than anything. In fact, Trump even said he approached his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, about taking the drug.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think?’” Trump said. “He said, “Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’ A lot of people are taking it.”
Later in the day in a memo, Conley alluded to another reason why he might have put Trump on hydroxychloroquine, referencing that two weeks ago, Trump’s personal valet tested positive for the virus.
“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” Conley said.
Fox News’ Cavuto: “[HCQ] will kill you.”
Even with this, several notable people have pushed back against the president’s use of hydroxychloroquine. In fact, on Fox News, anchor Neil Cavuto blasted the decision and implored people not to take the drug to try to prevent contracting the coronavirus.
“If you are in a risky population here,” Cavuto said, “and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough: This will kill you.”
“So again, whatever benefits the president says this has,” he added, “and it certainly has had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus, this is a leap that should not be taken casually by those watching at home who are assuming, well, the president of the United States says it’s OK.”
Cavuto also said that the VA study Trump dismissed wasn’t a political one and that it should be taken seriously.
Even with Cavuto’s warning, after his show ended, “The Five” host Greg Gutfeld encouraged viewers to take the drug.
Still, that didn’t seem to be enough to stop Trump from going after Fox News Monday night as he later lobbed what has become an increasing amount of criticism at his former favorite news network.
“@FoxNews is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes,” he said, referring to the former Fox News CEO who resigned in 2016 after multiple sexual assault allegations. “You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”
Pelosi Calls Trump “Morbidly Obese”
Pelosi’s comment seemed to start a firestorm on Twitter, many applauding her for fighting fire with fire and hurling what seemed to be an attack on Trump’s age and weight. Trump has repeatedly been known to attack his dissenters for their looks.
Others were much less enthusiastic, saying that Pelosi was fat-shaming Trump.
“Y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a Republican called a Democrat ‘morbidly obese,’” one Twitter user said. “If you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.”
y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a republican called a democrat “morbidly obese”. if you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.— maybe: diane (@dianelyssa) May 19, 2020
So far, neither Trump nor Pelosi have publicly responded to the situation any further.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Hill) (CNN)
Sen. Baldwin Estimates “13 or 14 Republicans” Will Vote for Respect for Marriage Act
The senator told Rogue Rocket she believes the legislation will pass “with a broad bipartisan majority.”
Respect for Marriage Act
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.) told Rogue Rocket that she believes as many as “13 or 14” Republican senators will vote on a bill to codify protections for gay and interracial marriage.
The legislation, dubbed the Respect for Marriage Act, was proposed in response to concerns about the future of marriage equality in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Not only did Roe’s reversal undermine the right to privacy and thus the foundation of the precedents that protected essential rights, Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly called for the court to reconsider Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that established same-sex marriage.
“The first thing [the bill] does is it repeals the Defense of Marriage Act, which sets up a federal definition of non-recognition of marriages between two people of the same sex, and so that would no longer be the law of the land,” Baldwin explained.
“And secondly, it says that the federal government, through a constitutional provision called ‘full faith and credit,’ will give full faith and credit to the acts of states,” she continued. “So if you’re legally married in a state that solemnized same-sex marriages, the federal government will recognize that marriage as well as other states being required to respect that marriage.”
In July, the House passed legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support from 47 Republicans, which is nearly a quarter of the caucus. The proposal also appears to be broadly backed by the public. Recent polls show that 70% of Americans support gay marriage.
Republican senators, however, have been hesitant to vote for the bill ahead of the midterm elections, as Democratic leadership had intended. As a result, the senators leading the charge — including Sen. Baldwin — asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to push a vote until after the midterms, and he consented.
Sen. Baldwin said many GOP senators wanted a clarification that the bill would protect religious liberties and not create a new mandate requiring religious institutions to respect gay or interracial marriage.
She noted that there has been clarifying language put in the legislation to ensure that it just pertains to state recognition of marriage.
“I think the other issue that was being raised — that only time will help us settle — is an accusation that this was going to be a push before the midterm elections,” she added. “And so it was a political act rather than something that we’re doing because we’re very serious about passing this into law and very serious about protecting people’s rights.”
“So it seems pretty clear to me that we gained greater support after the midterms than we had prior to the midterms,” Baldwin continued. “I do believe we’re going to pass it. I do believe that we’re going to pass it with a broad bipartisan majority.
Citing the clarifying language added to the bill, the senator said she thinks “there will be some additional momentum because of the time we’ve taken with this.”
“I feel like we were told in pretty clear terms that we would have some people support only if the vote came after the midterms,” she added.
When asked how many Republicans she believes will ultimately vote in favor of the bill, Baldwin responded: “If I were if I were to give you my best-educated guess, I think we’ll have either 13 or 14 Republicans join us.”
“I’m pushing to have this vote as close to the midterms after they pass as possible. So maybe in mid-November, […] plenty of time before the end of the year and before the membership actually changes,” she noted. “But also, we need to appeal to that compassionate side of some of my Republican colleagues who, you know, this is about a vote that you’re going to take that may well affect a niece and nephew, a cousin, a dear friend.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (CNN)
Supreme Court Begins Contentious New Term as Approval Rating Hits Historic Low
The most volatile cases the court will consider involve affirmative action, voting rights, elections, and civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
High Court to Hear Numerous Controversial Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday officially kicked off a new term that will be marked by a number of very contentious cases.
The justices, led by a conservative super-majority, will hear many matters that have enormous implications for the American people.
The first case the court will hear this term involves a major environmental dispute that will determine the scope of government authority under the Clean Water Act — a decision that could have a massive impact on U.S. water quality at a time when water crises’ have been heightened by climate change.
The case also comes amid increasing concerns about federal inaction regarding climate change, especially after the Supreme Court significantly limited the government’s power to act in this area at the end of its last term.
Cases Involving Race
Several of the most anticipated decisions also center around race, including a pair of cases that challenge affirmative action programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
For over four decades, the high court has repeatedly upheld that race can be a factor in college admissions to ensure a more equitable student body. Despite the fact that multiple challenges have been struck down in the past, the court’s conservative super majority could very well undo 40 years of precedent and undermine essential protections.
The high court will decide a legal battle that could significantly damage key voting protections for minorities set forth under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The case in question stems from a lower court opinion that invalidated Alabama’s congressional map for violating a provision in the VRA prohibiting voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race.
Alabama had drawn its map so only one of its seven congressional districts was majority Black, despite the fact that nearly one in every three voting-age residents in the state are Black.
States’ Power Over Elections
Also on the topic of gerrymandering and elections, the justices will hear a case that could have a profound impact on the very nature of American democracy. The matter centers around a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court to strike down the Republican-drawn congressional map on the grounds that it amounted to an illegal gerrymander that violated the state’s Constitution.
The North Carolina GOP appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause gives state legislatures almost total control over how federal elections are carried out in their state under a theory called the independent state legislature doctrine.
“That argument, in its most extreme form, would mean that [sic] no state court and no state agency could interfere with the state legislature’s version of election rules, regardless of the rules set down in the state constitution,” NPR explained.
In other words, if the Supreme Court sides with the North Carolina Republicans, they would essentially be giving state legislatures unchecked power over how voting maps are designed and elections are administered.
Another notable decision the justices will make could have huge implications for the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights more broadly. That matter involved a web designer in Colorado named Lori Smith who refused to design websites for same-sex couples because she believed it violates her right to religious freedoms.
That belief, however, goes against a Colorado nondiscrimination law that bans businesses that serve the public from denying their services to customers based on sexual orientation or identity.
As a result, Smith argues that the Colorado law violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment. If the high court rules in her favor, it would undermine protections for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado and likely other states with similar laws.
Experts also say such a ruling could go far beyond that. As Georgetown University’s Kelsi Corkran told NPR, “if Smith is correct that there’s a free speech right to selectively choose her customers based on the messages she wants to endorse,” the Colorado law would also allow white supremacists to deny services to people of color because that “would be a message of endorsement.”
Record-Low Approval Rating
The court’s high-stakes docket also comes at a time when its reputation has been marred by questions of legitimacy.
A new Gallup poll published last week found that the Supreme Court’s approval rating has sunk to a record low. Specifically, less than half of Americans said they have at least a “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch — a 20% drop from just two years ago.
Beyond that, a record number of people also now say that the court is too conservative. Experts argue that these numbers are massively consequential, especially as the U.S. heads into yet another highly-contentious court term.
“The Supreme Court is at an important moment,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs told The Hill.
“Trust in the institutions has vastly diminished, certainly among Democrats, and many have a close eye on how they rule on other vital matters. If decisions seem to keep coming from a very pointed political direction, frustration and calls for reform will only mount.”
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNN) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event
The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.
Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.
The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.
The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.
“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.”
The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.
“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.
“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”
The Age Maximum Question
Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.
Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.
While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.
These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.
There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.
What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.
As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.
Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.
However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.