Donald Trump has received what his team called a ‘medical evaluation’ on TV from a doctor widely criticised for spreading misinformation about coronavirus.
The president appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight programme on Friday night in his first on-screen interview since testing positive for the virus.
As part of the segment he was interviewed by Dr Marc Siegel, a frequent guest on the show, who has previously compared Covid-19 to the flu and said there is ‘no science’ behind face mask requirements.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 deaths have surpassed the past five flu seasons combined, while studies have backed even the simplest face coverings as an effective tool to reduce transmission risk.
Unlike most of Mr Trump’s past Fox News appearances, the segment was pre-recorded rather than broadcast live.
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Despite the president’s campaign team announcing it as a virtual ‘medical evaluation and interview’, Dr Siegel said ‘this is not officially a tele-visit’.
He continued: ‘But I hope you’ll indulge me. You be the patient, and I’ll be the doctor here.’
Mr Trump said he now feels ‘really good’ after he ‘got lucky with a certain medicine. … It was miraculous to me.’
He said he was now ‘medication-free’ as of eight hours prior to the interview, adding that ‘it makes me feel good, I don’t like medication’.
Asked about his symptoms while in hospital, the 74-year-old claimed he ‘didn’t have a problem with breathing’ even though his own doctor confirmed the president received supplemental oxygen as part of his treatment.
Mr Trump, who was discharged from hospital after three days, and his aides have repeatedly refused to say if he has been tested since being treated or when his last negative test was.
Dr Siegel did not question him on the subject, although he asked him how long Walter Reed Hospital doctors wanted to keep him in for, to which the president replied: ‘I don’t know, exactly. They did a tremendous job.’
A study in April in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review named Dr Siegel as an early pusher of misleading theories about the coronavirus, highlighting ‘the virus should be compared to the flu’ because ‘worst case scenario it could be the flu’.
In an interview earlier that month he said: ‘This is a contagious virus, we’re concerned about it. We don’t have a vaccine for it, but there’s no reason to believe it’s actually more problematic or deadly than influenza.’
Around 22,000 Americans died during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the CDC, while Covid-19 has killed over 213,000 people in the United States in less than a year.
In England and Wales there were 48,168 deaths due to coronavirus between January and August 2020, compared with 394 deaths due to flu and 13,619 deaths due to pneumonia, according to the Office for National Statistics.
While flu and pneumonia were mentioned on more death certificates, doctors listed Covid-19 as the underlying cause in more than three times as many deaths as both combined, the ONS added.
Sarah Caul, head of Mortality Analysis, said on Thursday: ‘The mortality rate for Covid-19 is also significantly higher than influenza and pneumonia rates for both 2020 and the five-year average.
‘Since 1959, which is when ONS monthly death records began, the number of deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in the first eight months of every year have been lower than the number of Covid-19 deaths seen, so far, in 2020.’
Dr Siegel claimed there was ‘no science’ behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s calls for a nationwide mask mandate in August, though he acknowledged was helpful ‘in areas where there’s a lot of [the virus]’.
Mr Biden had proposed to make it a federal rule to wear masks in public.
Dr Siegel misleadingly characterised the former vice-president’s suggestion as a plan to force people to wear masks outdoors, even though the proposal is aimed at getting businesses to uphold mask-wearing rules on their properties.
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