Bill Barr Accuses Media of 'Jihad' to Discredit Hydroxychloroquine After Trump Touts Drug as COVID-19 Treatment

Attorney General William Barr has condemned the media for what he says are partisan attacks on President Donald Trump for touting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible weapon against the novel coronavirus.

In an interview on Fox News, Barr told the anchor Laura Ingraham it was "disappointing" to see the media response to Trump who had been "statesmanlike" in working with governors and yet still had to deal with "snarky 'gotcha' questions from the White House media pool."

He said that "the stridency of the partisan attacks on him has gotten higher and higher," and said the "politicization of decisions like the hydroxychloroquine has been amazing to me."

"Before the president said anything about it, there was fair and balanced coverage of this very promising drug and the fact that it has such a long track record, that the risks were pretty well known.

Attorney General William Barr
Attorney General William Barr is pictured on April 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. He has told Fox News he believes a media campaign has been deliberately discrediting hydroxychloroquine as a remedy for the coronavirus. Win McNamee/Getty Images

"As soon as he said something positive about it, the media has been on a jihad to discredit the drug, It's quite strange," Barr said.

On Tuesday, Trump continued his championing of the drug on the same network, telling anchor Sean Hannity, "One thing that we do see is that people are not gonna die from it. So if somebody is in trouble, you take it, I think. I would."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 on March 30, despite scant testing to measure the anti-malarial's efficacy in slowing the progression of the acute respiratory symptoms of the disease. Around 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, which usually treats malaria and lupus, have been added to the federal stockpile.

In a statement on Wednesday, the FDA said that studies were still being carried out to "determine the efficacy in using these drugs to combat COVID-19."

Current guidance limits the drug's use to those who are hospitalized, however doctors told NBC that like any therapeutic it was likely to be more effective if taken earlier.

"When you give it to somebody who is already super sick, it's likely not going to make an impact because the damage is already done," said Dr. Ken Lyn-Kew, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver.

In the rest of the interview on The Ingraham Angle, Barr raised his concerns about the length of the shutdown across the U.S. saying, "we will have a weaker health care system if we go into a deep depression.

"So just measure it in lives, the cure cannot be worse than the disease," he said, in an echo of Trump's tweet last month that "we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.
Spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.