Trump lashes out at scientists whose findings contradict him

WASHINGTON (AP) – "A statement by Trump's enemy," he said of a study.

"A successful political job," he said of another.

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While President Donald Trump struggles to reopen the country, despite doctors' warnings about the consequences of moving too fast during the coronavirus crisis, he has criticized scientists whose conclusions he dislikes.

Twice this week, Trump not only dismissed the findings of the studies, but suggested – without evidence – that their authors were motivated by politics and undermined their efforts to reverse coronavirus restrictions.

First, it was a study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health of its own government, which raised alarms about the use of hydroxychloroquine, finding higher overall mortality in patients with coronavirus who used the drug in Veterans Administration hospitals. Trump and many of his allies were announcing the drug as a miracle cure and Trump this week revealed that he was using it to try to ward off the virus – despite an FDA warning last month that it should only be used in hospital settings or in clinical trials due to the risk of serious side effects, including life-threatening heart problems.

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“If you look at the only survey, the only bad survey, they were being delivered to people in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead, "Trump told reporters on Tuesday." It was an enemy declaration of Trump. "

He offered a similar tie on Thursday to a new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. He found that more than 61% of COVID-19 infections and 55% of reported deaths – almost 36,000 people – could have been prevented if measures of social detachment had been implemented a week earlier. Trump has repeatedly defended the government's handling of the virus in the face of persistent criticism that he acted too slowly.

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"Columbia is a very liberal institution," Trump told reporters on Thursday. "I think it's just political work, you want to know the truth".

Trump has long skeptical dominant science – dismissing man-made climate change as a "fraud", suggesting that noise from wind turbines causes cancer and claiming that exercise can deplete a body's finite amount of energy. It is part of a greater skepticism of experience and reaction against "elites" that has become increasingly popular with Trump's conservative base.

But undermining Americans' confidence in the integrity and objectivity of scientists is especially dangerous during a pandemic when the public relies on their leaders to develop policies based on the best information available, said Larry Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University, a public health expert. .

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"If the president is politicizing science, if he is discounting health experts, the public will be scared and confused," said Gostin, calling it "dismay".

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The White House rejected that thought, noting that Trump followed the recommendations of his government's public health officials during much of the crisis.

“Any suggestion that the president does not value scientific data or the important work of scientists is evidently false, as evidenced by the many data-based decisions he made to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, including stopping early travel by highly infected. , speeding up the development of vaccines, issuing guidelines of 15 and 30 days to & # 39; delay the spread & # 39; and providing governments with a clear and safe roadmap to opening America again, "said White House spokesman Judd Deere.

However, Trump made it clear that, at least with respect to hydroxychloroquine, he prioritized anecdotal evidence, including a letter he told reporters he received from a doctor in Westchester, New York, claiming success with the drug.

Asked this week what evidence he had that the drug was effective in preventing COVID-19, Trump replied, "Are you ready? Here is my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it."

This veteran study, funded by grants from NIH and the University of Virginia, was not a rigorous experiment, but a retrospective analysis by researchers from several universities who analyzed the impact of hydroxychloroquine on patients at veteran hospitals across the country. It found no benefit and more deaths among those who received hydroxychloroquine versus standard treatment alone. The work was published online for researchers and has not been reviewed by other scientists.

Columbia's preliminary study has also yet to be published or reviewed by other experts. The researchers analyzed the numbers using a mathematical model, making assumptions about how quickly the coronavirus spreads and how people behave under hypothetical circumstances.

Trump's criticisms of the studies also arise because his allies are eager to fight messages from public health experts who say Trump is putting lives at risk by pressing states to reopen quickly in an election year. Republican political officials were recruiting Pro-Trump doctors go on television to defend the resumption of the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet federal security criteria.

Gostin said Trump should leave it to his public health agencies to evaluate emerging data and the value of several studies.

"I think there are real dangers," he said, "for the president to play scientist and doctor on TV."

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Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson contributed to this Seattle report.

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