Fact check: Alex Jones' claims about Trump's COVID-19 treatments, 'deep state' are false
The claim: Walter Reed Hospital tried to kill Trump for "Deep State".
President Donald Trump is back at the White House after receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. However, a viral video from right-wing media company InfoWars claims the doctors there weren't really trying to help the president.
"President Trump is receiving very dangerous experimental drugs that no one has ever been given together," said Alex Jones of InfoWars. “President Trump is in great danger. There is mounting evidence that he was deliberately killed at Walter Reed Military Hospital. "
Jones implies that Trump's treatment is not only "dangerous" but could also be part of a larger program of the "Deep State," a term - coined by conspiracy theorists - for an allegedly secret network of influential members of government agencies and the military ruling the country behind the scenes.
The video was shared on Facebook by Trump Supporters NZ group on October 3rd, where commentators voiced their outrage over the allegations.
"I just told a friend that I can't believe he would use an experimental drug for the POTUS," one commenter wrote. "I pray he's fine."
In a video released on October 5, Jones reinforced his allegation, claiming that Walter Reed "tried to kill Trump and failed".
Neither InfoWars nor Trump Supporters NZ responded to USA TODAY's comments.
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Drugs mentioned in the video are not "very dangerous". Experts say mix is fine
Since his diagnosis was announced on October 2, Trump has been on a full medical regimen that included Regeneron's experimental antibody drug and Gilead's remdesivir.
Remdesivir first appeared in October 2015 when it was found to be effective during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The drug, a result of a collaboration between Gilead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, interferes with a virus' ability to copy its genetic material. It was viewed as a potential COVID-19 treatment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and was clinically tested in Wuhan, China in February.
In April, the National Institutes of Health released preliminary data showing that remdesivir reduced recovery time for critically ill patients from 15 to 11 days. Although the death rate was not significantly improved, this finding gave medical experts reason to believe that the antiviral might prove useful in patients with early to mild illness.
Subsequent preliminary data from Gilead, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that "Remdesivir was superior to placebo around time to recovery in adults hospitalized with Covid-19 and evidence of infection to shorten lower airways "when patients were given a 10-day course.
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Regeneron's experimental antibody "Cocktail", known as REGN-COV2, is a combination of two antibodies, proteins made by immune cells called B cells. These antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987, are designed to bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevent it from interacting with its target on the surface of the host cell, the ACE2 receptor.
According to a memorandum from White House Doctor Dr. Sean Conley, Trump received an 8-gram dose of Regeneron's antibody cocktail prior to his hospitalization. The dosage is higher than the doses previously studied in some clinical trials of REGN-COV2, but appears to be working well according to initial data published by Regeneron in September.
President Donald Trump at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 3, 2020.
Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Canada, told the US TODAY that it was not inappropriate to give Trump the antibody cocktail.
"I think there is enough data to show that it is likely to be safe," he said. "It's certainly not prime-time ready, but in exceptional cases it would be reasonable (to give to a patient)."
USA TODAY interviewed several doctors about Trump's treatment, and many supported the decision to try both drugs. However, it is true that they have never been studied in combination, the doctors said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, said he also had confidence in the president's doctor and called Conley and other Walter Reed doctors "very skilled".
"I'm really confident that the President of the United States is getting the best care you can get with the team at Walter Reed," he told CNN on Monday.
Fact check: Trump's hospital records, weight not released
Jones questions steroid use
Jones said in the video that he was suspicious that Trump's doctors did not prescribe or discuss the use of steroids that are known to mitigate the negative autoimmune reaction. The video was posted on October 3rd and one of the doctors treating Trump announced his use of dexamethasone on October 4th.
Dexamethasone belongs to a class known as corticosteroids, which is similar to a natural hormone made in the adrenal glands, endocrine glands that sit on the kidneys. It is commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, severe allergies, or asthma, and to keep the immune system down overall. Preliminary results from the UK national clinical study RECOVERY showed that mortality was reduced in patients receiving mechanical ventilation or oxygen, but not in patients receiving no respiratory assistance.
Dr. Sean Conley, a doctor for President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, October 4, 2020. Trump was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)
Here's the problem with dexamethasone: it can be harmful to patients with early or mild illness, a category that the President's medical team maintains despite its supplemental oxygen supply.
"You don't want to give it to a patient too soon," Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of Boston Medical Center's Special Pathogens Unit, told STAT News in an October interview. "It's a dull tool, so it can suppress both good and bad immune responses."
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Debunking "Deep State" claims
The term "deep state" refers to an allegedly secret network of longtime government insiders who play American politics as puppets and are critics of Trump, who works against him and his politics. Trump has previously bolstered conspiracy theory, most recently claiming the "deep state or whoever" makes it harder to get a vaccine out.
A common thread in conspiracy theories, especially in those adjacent to QAnon, is that Trump has been tasked with breaking down this "deep state" - and he's not happy about that.
Jones in the video suggests that the "deep state" collapse because the president wanted to "win" the election and now he's working desperately to kill him. He said that this secret network is suppressing whistleblower scientists and that doctors have previously been involved in assassinations by the president.
All of these claims, including claims that the "deep state" exists, are unfounded.
The scientists Jones claims are suppressed by the "deep state" are members of a group called America's Frontline Doctors. They first made headlines after claiming at a news conference on July 27th that hydroxychloroquine was an effective cure for COVID-19. That is not true.
Many have a track record of making unproven medical claims. One, Dr. Stella Immanuel, has said that she believes that alien DNA exists and that cysts are caused by sex with "spiritual husbands and wives".
Fact check: No evidence ex-N.J. Governor Chris Christie is on the ventilator for COVID-19
Nor is there any evidence that doctors ever intentionally tried to assassinate a president. There are two presidents who seem to have died at the hands of doctors: James Garfield and William Harrison.
After four months in office, Garfield was shot in the back. It wasn't fatal, all vital organs were missing, and it was behind Garfield's pancreas, according to CBS News. Garfield's doctors, like all doctors in America at the time, did not believe in germs, so they nudged and nudged with unsanitary hands. Garfield eventually died of a series of infections.
Harrison developed pneumonia. When he died, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal issued a critical review of Harrison's care, claiming the doctors treated the president for a cold only instead of "insidious pneumonia," the Washington Post reported.
The video specifically mentions Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan as examples of "Deep State" attempts to kill presidents. Although conspiracy theories about the two attacks - one success only - have existed for years, they are unfounded.
Fact Check: Satirical Post falsely claims Trump would be fine if he hadn't been tested
Our rating: wrong
There is no evidence to support the claim that doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center intentionally killed the president. We evaluate this claim as FALSE because it is not supported by our research and because it advocates a conspiracy theory that is an unfounded and implausible conclusion.
Our fact-checking sources:
The Alex Jones Show, October 5th, "Walter Reed Tried To Kill Trump And Failed"
US TODAY, Oct 4th: "Trump is getting a lot of medical care and some doctors are wondering if it's too much."
CNN, Oct. 5, "Fauci Says He Was Not In Trump's Care"
CNN, Oct. 4, "Trump is taking dexamethasone for his Covid-19. That could be serious, doctors say."
US TODAY, Aug 23, "Meadows: Trump claims the FDA's Deep State is trying to violate him politically and that it was about cutting red tape."
US TODAY, Sep 17th, "Debunked QAnon conspiracy theories infiltrate mainstream social media. Don't be fooled."
USA TODAY, July 30th, "America's Frontline Doctors may be real doctors, but experts say they don't know what they're talking about."
PolitiFact, July 29, "Who Are The Doctors In The Hydroxychloroquine Viral Video?"
CBS, Jul 5, 2012, "How Doctors Killed President Garfield"
Washington Post, October 6: "In 1841 pneumonia killed the president in 31 days. His doctors were charged with incompetence."
The New Yorker, Oct. 29, 2017, "The J.F.K. Files, Trump and the Deep State"
ABC7 WJLA, July 27, 2016, "Judge: Reagan Gunner John W. Hinckley Jr. Released After 35 Years"
The New York Times, Oct 21, 2015, "New Evidence of Ebola as Improving the Sick Nurse"
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, Oct. 5, "Trump's Treatments: Regeneron's Antibodies and Gilead's Remdesivir Explained"
National Institutes of Health, April 29, "NIH Clinical Study Shows Remdesivir Accelerates Recovery From Advanced COVID-19."
The New England Journal of Medicine, May 22, "Remdesivir for the Treatment of Covid-19 - Preliminary Report"
CSPAN, October 2, Twitter thread
Regeneron, Sept. 29, "Regeneron's REGN-COV2 antibody cocktail reduced virus levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients."
Associated Press, Oct. 5, "Timeline of Trump's Medical Treatment for Coronavirus."
Mayo Clinic, October 1, "Dexamethasone (Oral Route)"
The New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, "Dexamethasone in Hospitalized Patients with Covid-19 - Preliminary Report"
STAT News, Oct. 4, "Trump Receives Dexamethasone, a Steroid Typically Given to Patients With Severe Covid-19."
Insider, Jul 7: "Vitamin D may be a good defense against the coronavirus, according to several new reports. Here's what you need to know."
Business Insider, Oct. 6: Trump has been taking vitamin D, zinc, antacids, and melatonin since he received COVID-19. Here's the evidence.
USA TODAY, Aug 18, "Fact Check: The ShadowGate Video Spreads Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories About Major Events."
USA TODAY, July 21, "Fact Check: Hydroxychloroquine Did Not Work in Treating COVID-19, Studies Show."
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Fact Check: Alex Jones makes false claims about Trump's COVID-19 drugs
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