President Trump claimed Friday that he was only joking when he theorized about the medical benefits of injecting household disinfectants as a treatment for COVID-19. "I was asking it sarcastically to reporters just like you to see what would happen," he said.
Trump's comments, though, were not interpreted as a joke at the time, prompting companies like Lysol to urge consumers not to ingest their products. The state of Maryland even confirmed Friday that it had "received several calls regarding questions about disinfectant use" as it pertains to curing COVID-19.
On Thursday, Trump had mused with a straight face: "I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."
Trump has backtracked from controversy in the past by claiming his humor was misunderstood, such as when he famously asked Russian hackers to find Hillary Clinton's emails. Later asked to explain his comments, he had said "obviously I was being sarcastic," although Russia in fact began their first efforts to break into Clinton's servers the same day he'd asked, The New York Times has reported.
White House reporters were also incredulous that Trump had actually intended his disinfectant comments "sarcastically," particularly since he turned to the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, to prompt her to clarify if people could also "enjoy the sun" and kill the virus at the same time.
"Not as a treatment," Dr. Birx had replied.