Laura Ingraham and Fox News Medical Guests Met With Trump to Discuss Hydroxychloroquine: Report

Fox host Laura Ingraham and two of her regular medical guests—cardiologist Ramin Oskoui and infectious disease specialist Stephen Smith—reportedly met privately with U.S. President Donald Trump and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn last Friday to persuade him to endorse the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.

Ingraham has been promoting the drug as a potential treatment to coronavirus on her Fox News show and has referred to the two aforementioned doctors as her "medicine cabinet." During the meeting, Smith said he showed Trump documents and "a detailed presentation" about hydroxychloroquine's benefits "based on his own experiences and studies" and its uses in hospitals.

White House officials who spoke anonymously with The Post to candidly comment on the meeting said it "appeared to be an effort to press Trump to ratchet up his public support for the drug." Trump reportedly "listened intently" and left "seemingly determined" to push for its wider use.

Trump has repeatedly mentioned hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus from early on in his daily epidemic briefings to as recently as this weekend when he said, "What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. But it's their choice. And it's their doctor's choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you'd like."

Laura Ingraham
Political talk radio host Laura Ingraham gestures to the crowd as she walks on stage to deliver a speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex Wong/Getty

During his Sunday briefing, Trump even prevented Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the infectious disease expert on his coronavirus task force, from answering CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond's question about whether he agreed with the president's belief in the drug.

Before Dr. Fauci could respond, Trump said, "You know how many times he's answered that question? Maybe 15 times."

The Post says Fauci has "privately pleaded" with Trump to be more cautious in his endorsement. Nevertheless, this weekend the FDA issued a limited Emergency Use Authorization for Trump's coronavirus task force to make rushed shipments of the drug from the national stockpile to Detroit, New Orleans, New York and other "hot zones," even though hydroxychloroquine is still officially being tested as a yet unproven treatment for the epidemic.

Doctors can currently prescribe it "off-label" as a treatment for COVID-19 or other ailments like lupus and arthritis, but the drug also has side-effects like slowing heart rate, possible arrhythmia and interference with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can occur with coronavirus.

MSN reports that the largest manufacturers of hydroxychloroquine, Novartis, once paid Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen over $1 million "for healthcare policy insight following Trump's election in 2016." Both Oskoui and the FDA declined to comment on The Post's report.

A White House official told The Post that White House aides have been encouraging the president's views by giving him clippings files of "upbeat news articles about people who said they were helped by the experimental drug." Another official said that Fox News' repeated mentions of the drug as a possible treatment have created an "echo chamber" for the president's preoccupation with the drug.

While Trump has reportedly pressured Hahn to publicly endorse the drug as a treatment during the White House's daily briefings, Hahn has refused to do so until clinical trials are completed.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley has said the media is trying to fabricate a "soap opera-like drama" between Trump and Fauci's views on the drug when "there is no daylight" between the two men, implying that their views are closely aligned.