Mark Burnett, the producer of “The Apprentice,” claims that up to 300 hours of video were shot for each one-hour long episode of the hit reality TV show that rescued Donald Trump from obscurity and ultimately delivered him to the White House. Having watched Trump bluff and blunder his way through the daily White House Corononavirus Task Force briefing these past couple of months, it’s easy to believe him.
Trump’s latest public outrage was to suggest that scientists investigate injecting common household disinfectant into the human body as a possible cure for COVID-19 to a worldwide audience tuned into his Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing last Thursday.
Trump famously regurgitates the last thing anyone says to him, which in this case happened to be an adviser who told him “household disinfectant works great for killing coronavirus on surfaces.” Why not try it inside the body? The president mused out loud.
The next day, Trump claimed he was just being sarcastic in an attempt to trigger the journalists covering the daily news conference. For once the man who has lied or misled the public more than 16,000 times since taking office was telling half the truth.
Many critics have called the daily coronavirus briefings a substitute for Trump’s fascistic stadium rallies, now on hold thanks to the pandemic. But under Trump’s direction, the coronavirus briefings have reverted to a form with which the president is even more familiar: the reality TV program.
Call it, “The Apprentice: Pandemic President.”
The show is shot live for one to two hours and set against the rather serious backdrop of the federal government’s ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 50,000 people across the United States as of this writing, including 4 people in Shasta County.
As always, our glorious first-term president begins each episode expounding on his own singular achievements, attacking ungrateful blue-state governors and offering up his latest crackpot coronavirus cures from the podium. He then turns the floor over to the experts.
But as infectious disease experts such as Drs. Deborah Birx or Anthony Fauci take questions from journalists, Trump hovers nearby like a persistent heckler, ready to interrupt the answer if he doesn’t like what he’s hearing. It’s high-tension drama as Trump attempts to reverse-engineer answers to his own liking and his advisers attempt to stay true to medical science without pissing off the boss.
Trolling journalists is a feature of Trump’s program, not a bug. Not a briefing goes by without the president publicly humiliating at least one reporter in person and disparaging the entire news industry in general. The Q&A session often ends with a question going to One America News Network, which prides itself on being more pro-Trump than FOX.
There’s a lot going on in these coronavirus briefings for members of Trump’s base to like. Owning the libs, humiliating the scientific experts, excoriating the new media and last but not least, magic elixirs, such as hydroxychloroquine, that allegedly cure and even prevent COVID-19.
Trump and FOX News began pushing hydroxychloroquine, which has been used for decades to treat malaria and lupus, as a game-changing miracle drug for coronavirus in late March based on scant scientific evidence that it has any effect on COVID-19.
So far, no controlled studies of hydroxychloroquine’s effect on coronavirus have been completed. Trump’s claims that the drug can both cure and prevent the disease remain unsubstantiated. At least one person died from ingesting hydroxychloroquine in its fish-tank-cleaner form after hearing Trump tout the drug.
Several recent studies found hydroxychloroquine may not be tolerated well by patients with COVID-19, and investors, such as the state of Utah, now regret spending millions stockpiling it.
With hydroxychloroquine on the wane, much like Huey Lewis and the News, Trump needed a new drug to promote during the briefing. He found it in common household disinfectant.
It’s not too hard to imagine why Dr. Birx cringed stage side when Trump suggested that scientists should investigate whether injecting household disinfectant into the human body might kill coronavirus:
You’re the god damned president of the United States! People will do what you tell them to do, no matter how stupid it is. For Christ’s sake man, use your better judgement!
It’s apparently true that the second the president’s words reached their intended audience, some viewers began rummaging under the kitchen sink and through their bathroom cabinets, searching for household cleaning agents to ingest in order to combat the virus.
In New York City, for example, the rate of people poisoning themselves with household chemicals such as bleach and Lysol doubled overnight after Trump’s remarks
The risk that hundreds of Americans might begin shooting disinfectant into their veins was so acute, Lysol and other companies quickly issued press releases warning their products definitely don’t cure coronavirus and should never be consumed by humans, “through injection, ingestion or any other route.”
Trump understandably took a lot of heat for the impromptu suggestion, and left Friday’s coronavirus briefing in a huff without taking questions from reporters. On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he’s finally had enough.
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” Trump wrote. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
Undoubtedly the nation would be better off if President Donald Trump stayed away from the coronavirus briefings. Unlike the producers of “The Apprentice,” we don’t have the luxury of doing multiple takes until the stable genius finally gets it right. Vice President Mike Pence can read the burgeoning death toll adequately enough.
But no doubt Trump is bluffing once again. It’s the old Br’er Rabbit “Don’t throw me in the briar patch!” routine, except in this case the rabbit is a diagnosed malignant narcissist. Trump’s not lying about the coronavirus briefing TV ratings being high, and as we’ve seen with the live broadcast of his rallies, that benefits him just as much as it does the networks.
With the coronavirus briefings, he’s right where he’s always wanted to be, at the center of our attention. The number of briefings will be scaled back, the scripting will be tightened up, but for Trump, the show will go on.