Twitter removes tweet highlighted by Trump falsely claiming COVID-19 'cure'

Rebecca Shabad and Shannon Pettypiece
·4 min read

WASHINGTON — Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus.

Late Monday, Trump retweeted the tweet from an account with the handle "@stella_immanuel" that said: "Covid has cure. America wake up."

Twitter soon after removed the tweet and replaced it with a gray box that says, "This Tweet is no longer available."

A cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, doesn't exist, and scientists have been working on developing both a range of treatments and vaccines. They and the Trump administration are racing to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year.

Twitter said early Tuesday, "Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy."

Trump also retweeted tweets defending the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, including one that accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, of misleading the public by dismissing the drug.

"I have not been misleading the public under any circumstances," Fauci responded Tuesday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" when asked for his reaction to Trump's retweets.

Fauci reiterated that the "overwhelming prevailing clinical trials" that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it's "not effective" in treating the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was temporarily locked out of his Twitter account on Tuesday after posting the same controversial video shared by Trump promoting hydroxychloroquine and saying people don't need to wear masks, said Andy Surabian, an adviser to the president's son. In a text message, Surabian said the president's son should be able to resume tweeting later in the day.

"Twitter suspending Don Jr. for sharing a viral video of medical professionals discussing their views on Hydroxychloroquine is further proof that Big Tech is intent on killing free expression online and is another instance of them committing election interference to stifle Republican voices," Surabian said in a statement. "It is beyond the pale for Twitter to silence someone for sharing the views of medical professionals who happen to dissent with their anti-Hydroxychloroquine narrative."

The president had recently tried to take a more moderate approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He conceded, for example, last week at one of his restarted coronavirus White House briefings that it will likely "get worse before it gets better." The president has also been touting the importance of wearing masks after dismissing them for months. Despite his change in tone, he pushed states to reopen on Monday as a number of experts are calling for states to shut down.

Twitter has been much more aggressive in recent months in either removing tweets posted by the president, fact-checking them in real time or even placing warning labels over them.

The social media giant first fact-checked a pair of tweets posted by Trump in May when he claimed there was "NO WAY" an election with boosted mail-in voting would be legitimate. Twitter added a fact-check label to both tweets.

A few days later, Trump signed an executive order that asked federal regulators to revisit a 1996 law that protects websites from liability for what their users post.

And then a day after he signed the executive order, Twitter put a tweet from Trump behind a warning label, which said that the president had violated its rules against glorifying violence when he tweeted about protests over the death of George Floyd.

In June, Twitter and Facebook removed a video posted to Trump's social media accounts of a "racist baby" because of a copyright claim from one of the children's parents. Twitter labeled the video "manipulated media."

Trump stood by his comments on hydroxychloroquine at a press briefing later Tuesday, telling reporters "I happen to believe in it."

"I would take it. I, as you know, took it for a 14-day period, and I'm here," Trump said. "It didn't get me, and it's not going to — hopefully — hurt anybody."

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended against taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19. Trump said in May that he was taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent contracting the virus.

Trump abruptly ended the briefing Tuesday after a reporter asked him why he would share content to his Twitter account from a doctor who has pushed wildly false medical information including that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens and that doctors are trying to create a vaccine to make people immune from becoming religious.

"She was on air along with many other doctors. They were being fans of hydroxychloroquine, and I thought she was very impressive in the sense that — from where she came, I don't know which county she comes from — but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice. But I know nothing about her," Trump said before leaving the briefing room.