Donald Trump’s contempt for science knows no apparent bounds.
With anyone else, such animosity would be a relatively harmless quirk or a perplexing eccentricity that could easily be dismissed as irrelevant in one’s own life.
For the President of the United States, however, such an antagonistic attitude towards the scientific method and the scientists who tirelessly toil away on research projects that can prove or disprove whatever theorem that they are testing can be as dangerous to the health of the American public as one could possibly imagine.
Trump’s lack of respect for the scientific process and consensus was on full display this afternoon in a rare Sunday afternoon press briefing — one suspiciously timed to precede the launch of the Republican National Convention tomorrow — that the president used to announce the issuance of an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma by the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients struggling with COVID-19 infections.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) August 23, 2020
Unfortunately for public health and safety, it appears that the emergency use authorization is suspected of being issued under heavy political pressure from the White House in dire need of some good news on the pandemic front as Trump’s polling numbers in his re-election campaign keep dropping precipitously.
Until today, the FDA has indicated that the data in clinical tests of convalescent plasma therapy against coronavirus infections have not been particularly promising, which is why its guidance until today was that all tests of the treatment had to be coordinated through their clinical trials or one of two other emergency use programs.
Trump’s announcement today will allow a greatly expanded use of plasma therapy without any hard proof that the treatment is either effective or safe.
Convalescent plasma consists of the liquid remaining after red and white blood cells are removed from the blood of a person who has recovered from a bout of COVID-19, leaving the resulting plasma rich in natural antibodies.
As a method of therapeutic treatment, some form or another of convalescent plasma has been in use since the early days of modern medicine in the first decade of the 2oth century.
After Trump announced that he was announcing the new emergency use authorization, he allowed both Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Dr. Stephen Hahn the Commissioner of the FDA to make a few comments before allowing a pitifully few questions from the press.
Predictably, the questions went to two Trump-friendly news organizations, Fox News and OANN, the latter of which had not even been assigned a seat in the briefing room by the White House Correspondents Association that makes such assignments.
When even one of the reporters from his fawning news channels asked a question that began to undermine the significance of today’s announcement, Trump beat a hasty retreat from the briefing room as reporters shouted questions to the FDA chief as to whether he was “pressured” to fast-track the emergency use authorization by the president.
The news from Trump's presser is the FDA issuing an emergency authorization for use of convalescent plasma to treat Covid. CNN reports that "while there are promising signals from some studies, there's not yet randomized clinical trial data." Trump is still hunting for a miracle.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 23, 2020
The response to the president’s briefing today was mixed, with advocates for patients grateful that the easement of the bureaucracy surrounding the experimental treatment might make it more widely available for the most desperately afflicted patients while those who mistrust everything that Trump says or does – or who value the regulatory restrictions concerning drug efficacy and safety over political expediency — harshly regarded the president’s latest example of stunt medicine as a strictly political gambit.
"Many scientists and physicians believe that convalescent plasma might provide some benefit but is far from a breakthrough."
"The evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works."
Ex-FDA chief says it already is widely available.https://t.co/xCItimbWE5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 23, 2020
A reporter just (finally!) revealed that convalescent plasma therapy is 100 years old and Trump is still lying about his administration doing ANYTHING of note about it.
"This has nothing to do with politics."
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) August 23, 2020
I knew it.
Convalescent plasma been used in 90,000 ppl. Data's not been good, so FDA pulled back. Four days ago, FOX started harping that the FDA was blocking a miracle treatment. Yesterday, Trump repeated Fox. Today, he's going to hype what Fox hyped. https://t.co/qixUnsvtwD
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) August 23, 2020
This is nothing new! Convalescent plasma has been talked about for months. He now wants #COVID19 victims to donate their plasma. This is just a sycophantic cheerleading rally to praise dear leader Trump. Womp-womp. No big deal! My family members won't be offering their plasma
— Hawaii Shira (@HawaiiShira) August 23, 2020
So Trump makes another announcement of a Covid treatment, acting like it's a new cure, but it absolutely is not new. The convalescent plasma treatment has been going on for months. Over 70,000 have been treated this way. He's just trying to make a show before the election.
— Terry Blount (@TBlountPolitics) August 23, 2020
I am not even a scientist and I see the fallacy in your announcement about convalescent plasma.When you discuss a 35% survival rate, you are assuming that all 100 of the patients would have died without treatment. Come on man, we’re not that stupid! @realDonaldTrump
— Mark Jones (@Mark25653440) August 23, 2020
Anyone who questions the rushed process of this convalescent plasma emergency authorization, or the effectiveness of the treatment itself, trump and his Vichy republicans will brand as “rooting for the virus.”
A lame but predictable response.
— Dave Simon (@hairyhilarity) August 23, 2020
From today’s Washington Post: pic.twitter.com/imP3zs4vmn
— John M. Talmadge, MD (@JohnMTalmadgeMD) August 23, 2020
Whether convalescent plasma is the “miracle cure” that Trump has been wolf crying as imminent since the beginning of the pandemic remains to be seen as the data from clinical trials continues to pour in and be analyzed.
Whether the American public will regard Trump’s latest stunt in bypassing medical and scientific procedure at the FDA as beneficial or even the result of any effort on Trump’s part is another open question.
Most of us, however, long for the day when we don’t have to analyze every statement by our president for its truthfulness and don’t have to wonder what the motive for any given action he takes may be.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.