- 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)
Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States
Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.
May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio
The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.
Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)
The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation.
The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.
According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.
However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.
Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.”
Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.
The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.
Other Major Races This Month
There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.
In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats.
The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)
New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map
The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.
Appeals Court Ruling
The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.
In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”
The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.
But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.
In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.”
While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.
The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.
In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.
Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call
The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members‘ actions.
Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.
The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.
They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public.
One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.
In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.
“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”
Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.
Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.”
“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.
“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
McCarthy in Hot Water
The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.
McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.
McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump.
Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party.
Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.
Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”
Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”
Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”
It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.
After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”