Claiming that the novel coronavirus that’s killed roughly 157,000 Americans isn’t “that much worse” than the flu, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) blasted the media on Monday for supposedly peddling COVID-19 “panic porn” and downplaying the so-called effectiveness of unproven anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
Johnson, who last month insisted that the nation “overreacted” to the coronavirus pandemic,” appeared on far-right podcast War Room: Pandemic to push back against the overwhelming scientific evidence that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective coronavirus treatment or preventative.
Host Steve Bannon, who previously served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and has now become one of the controversial drug’s loudest proponents, asked Johnson what it was going to take to reverse the FDA’s revocation of hydroxychloroquine’s emergency use for coronavirus.
Pointing to the early “anecdotal evidence” of its success as a prophylactic and therapeutic, the Wisconsin senator claimed it was “baffling” that the drug has become so politicized while insisting “the risk is minuscule where the reward is huge.”
Trump and his allies have recently re-embraced hydroxychloroquine as a potential “cure” after a fringe doctor—who believes demon sperm causes female medical problems and alien DNA is used in medications—loudly touted the drug’s benefits in a viral video last week. Even after being confronted over the doctor’s bizarre assertions, Trump has continued to endorse her claims on the drug, calling her “spectacular.”
Despite numerous clinical trials and randomized studies finding no benefit from the drug, Johnson insisted that we could potentially be saving “tens of thousands of lives” by making it widely available to coronavirus patients. In June, the FDA revoked its use because of potentially deadly cardiac side effects. Furthermore, several of the health experts on Trump’s coronavirus task force have said it’s time to “move on” from hydroxychloroquine.
After Johnson called on Trump to take executive action to reinstate the emergency use of the drug, co-host Raheem Kassam asked him if he agreed that the media is deliberately anti-hydroxychloroquine in order to force Trump to fail against the pandemic and lose the election. Johnson, meanwhile, took that opportunity to downplay the virus’ lethality.
“They realize the best way to defeat Joe Biden is to reduce the fear on COVID,” the Republican lawmaker said. “If people really looked at this disease, it is worse than the flu, but it’s not that much worse. It shouldn’t be leading to these generalized shutdowns.”
Dr. William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor known for his work on HIV and the president of the global health think tank ACCESS Health International, told The Daily Beast earlier this year that not only is the coronavirus much deadlier than the flu but it can cause lasting damage to many of those who recover.
Even for those who don’t die, said Haseltine, many people with no age or other risk factors are hospitalized for weeks on a ventilator. “This is not the flu, and often you don’t get it and get over it,” said Haseltine. “Many people are going to suffer for years and years, if not the rest of their life. This can be a life-changing experience.”
Haseltine cited studies of medium to long term damage in patients’ kidneys, lungs, and hearts, along with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children.
The pro-Trump senator, after insisting that the mortality rate of the virus could soon approach that of the flu, continued to complain that both the media and Democrats are overhyping the dangers of the pandemic and that the White House needs to counter that narrative.
“So the press is going to continue to push panic porn,” he exclaimed. “The White House has to relay the good news and part of that good news should be hydroxychloroquine.”