President Trump stopped Dr. Fauci from responding to a question at a press briefing about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
The President has been a strong supporter of the anti-malaria drug while the government’s infectious disease expert has characterized its effectiveness as “anecdotal” and untested.
The President’s opinion on the drug is not supported by his expert, which has created a conflict not only between the two, but also in the way Americans are thinking about the drug.
first, it’s difficult to lead during a pandemic
People–including our leaders–tend to cling to information that confirms their biases, information that proves the way they already think, or the way they prefer to think. This is a well-studied phenomenon, and something that’s super important for leaders to overcome–especially when confronting a pandemic that starts slow (it’s easy to think it’s not a problem) and then explodes.
Oh, it’s only one guy in Seattle, President Trump said. We’ve got it under control…
Because of this confirmation bias, it’s vitally important for people making decisions to trust experts.
experts help us to overcome confirmation bias
To most of the country, Dr. Fauci, as the government’s leading infectious disease expert, provides consistent, factual information. Fauci is the stable, scientifically trained, apolitical voice to Trump’s untrained, shoot-from-the-hip view.
For example, hydroxychloroquine is President Trump’s therapy-of-choice for coronavirus, despite Dr. Fauci’s insistence that we don’t (yet) have the evidence to support that opinion. Why does it matter? Why should we be cautious about promoting something that has not been studied, even during a pandemic?
Check out the debate here.
Fox News and misinformation, including hydroxychloroquine
74 journalism professionals across the US wrote an open letter to Fox News urging the channel to stop the spread of “misinformation” and “false statements” regarding the pandemic.
Despite some “solid reporting” by Fox, the letter refers to several specific instances, including their promotion of hydroxychloroquine.
“Viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network—false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities,” the letter reads.
Geek out on the full text of the letter here.
Read about the two studies that informed the Fox News discussion, and how their flaws make conclusions unreliable.