Kevin Seraaj, journalist, Orlando Advocate
Kevin Seraaj
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By Kevin Seraaj, J.D., M.Div.
Publisher, Orlando Advocate

When Dr. Sean P. Conley was asked about the president’s X-rays and the condition of his lungs on Sunday, he said the tests showed “some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.”

“He didn’t say the chest X-ray was normal,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out. “He said ‘what is expected,’ and mostly we expect serious damage in the lungs from Covid. And I assume that’s what they saw, since they started the dexamethasone.”

It’s an excellent point. How do you treat the President of the United States with dexamethasone, a steroid that can have harmful effects on the immune system and is recommended only for coronavirus patients who are seriously ill, when there are no “major clinical concerns?”

Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, and why beat a dead horse? Every doctor has a professional duty to safeguard his patient’s medical privacy. But only Trump gets away with lying to the American people– 19,127 per the Washington Post, 23.3 lies per day according to Forbes. As a medical professional, Conley’s credibilty– and his reputation– have taken a big hit. He was clearly misleading the American public with his not-so-carefully-crafted choice of words. If he couldn’t tell the truth, though, he should have had a White House staffer conduct the press conference, instead. We’re all used to them lying to us, after all.

A much more pressing concern is the timeline of the President and First Lady’s infection. We now know that the President was treated with oxygen within 24 hours of his saying he and Mrs. Trump had tested positive. According to health professionals, it takes 5-7 days for the disease to progress to a stage where oxygen would become necessary for treatment. If that’s true, Trump was probably positive 5-7 days before he disclosed it– not the day before.

Trump’s senior campaign official, Jason Miller, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that “everyone close to the President” (which arguably includes the president himself) is tested every day. So, either the claim that everyone is tested every day is a lie, or the claim that Trump did not know he was positive until Thursday is a lie, or the tests being administered in the White House don’t work. The other possibility, of course, is that health professionals are just wrong when they say it takes 5-7 days for the disease to progress to this point. Take your pick.

Responsible Leadership

Trump’s closest aide, Hope Hicks, announced that she was Covid-19 positive on Thursday. She, Kellyanne Conway, the former senior White House aide, and Bill Stepien, President Trump’s campaign manager, have all tested positive for the coronavirus. They, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Gov. Chris Christie and 5 other staffers who were in close contact with the President have tested positive after being in meetings with Trump. The virus is clearly running around the White House, and Donald Trump is at the epicenter.

Trump, in typical fashion, played the blame game, saying the military and law enforcement were responsible for spreading the virus:

‘IT’S A TOUGH KIND OF SITUATION; IT’S A TERRIBLE THING. I JUST WENT FOR A TEST, AND WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS — I MEAN, WHO KNOWS? — BUT YOU KNOW [HICKS] VERY WELL. SHE’S FANTASTIC AND SHE’S DONE A GREAT JOB, BUT IT IS VERY VERY HARD WHEN YOU’RE WITH PEOPLE FROM THE MILITARY OR FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THEY COME OVER TO YOU AND THEY WANT TO HUG YOU AND THEY WANT TO KISS YOU, BECAUSE WE REALLY HAVE DONE A GOOD JOB FOR THEM, AND YOU GET CLOSE, AND THINGS HAPPEN. I WAS SURPRISED TO HEAR WITH HOPE, BUT SHE IS A VERY WARM PERSON WITH THEM, AND SHE — SHE KNOWS THERE’S A RISK.’

I guess it’s possible that soldiers and cops when they’re in the presence of the President become uncontrollable huggers and kissers, but this begs the real issue.

Should not there have been some protocols in place to prevent all that hugging and kissing? In the middle of a pandemic?

While blaming the men and women of law enforcement ant the military, Trump failed to deal with the larger issue: what steps was the White House taking to prevent infectious hugging and kissing in the future? The virus is still infecting people, after all. But that would have been too much like taking responsibility.

And despite Hope Hick’s positive test on Thursday, Mr. Trump attended a fund-raiser at his golf club at Bedminster, N.J., where it was reported that he came in contact with about 100 people, and seemed lethargic. The question posing as the elephant in the room is: how many of those people were infected? How many people have they, in turn, infected?

Rumors have been circulating for weeks, if not months, that lower-level White House employees who wanted to wear masks felt intimidated into not doing so out of fear they would be singled out for ridicule or worse by not following the example of the inner circle. Now, however, that the inner circle have joined the ranks of the infected, it is not be surprising to hear that those same staffers are moving from fear to anger at the White House failure to mandate masks, hand washing and sanitizer, and social distancing.

The Misinformation Spreads to the CDC

Trump’s reputation as the reality TV star who gruffly says: “You’re fired,” preceded him to the White House, where he hired then fired (or accepted resignations from) more than two dozen people. Outside the White House, he was responsible for the resignation of Dr. Rick Bright, the immunologist who made the mistake of telling Trump that his push to treat Covid-19 patients with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine was premature and needed more scientific study. Trump had him removed from his position as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and transferred to the National Institutes of Health, effectively sidelining him from doing any further work to combat the coronavirus. (As it turned out, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were both disproved after studies were done, but then, Trump doesn’t have any medical degrees, or does he?)

“By lying to the American public and not telling us the full truth, you’re actually prolonging the duration and impact of this pandemic,” Bright said on Thursday. “You’re actually allowing more people to die,” Bright said of president Trump.

Knowing where Trump’s priorities are, then, it is small wonder that people at the CDC would be fearful of a trip to the Apprentice board room. So, the problem with credible information flow has now crept over to the CDC– the one organization in whom every American– and even people in other countries– wants desperately to trust.

Politico reported that several politically appointed communications aides from the Department of Health began visiting the CDC and “demand[ing] the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic.” Once again, people without medical credentials dictating to those who do. Why? Because, as emails revealed, they said “the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak.” In a word: presidential public relations mattered more than public health.

But here is the rub: while officials of the CDC resisted on some of the more major issues, little by little they gave in, and finally agreed to allow those political ‘operatives’ to review the reports. Right away, they were suggesting changes. In a few, excruciatingly important cases, the CDC actually compromised on the wording used in its reports.

One glaring example is removing the words “Children, Adolescents and Young Adults” from the title of a CDC Report and replacing them with the word “Persons.” You see, President Trump had his own public relations narrative, telling reporters on September 10: “[W]e want schools to safely open and stay open. Children are at extremely low risk of complications from the virus.” How best to make sure the picture painted by the president remained rosy after the CDC report was completed? Simple. Change the title.

If you change the title of the report, anyone attempting to research virus-related findings having to do with children, adolescents or young adults would likely search on one of those words– and not on the word “persons.” In all likelihood, then, while a lot of material would show up in the results, that particular not-so-rosy report would not. Again: simple.

So how can we trust a CDC who is complicit in such an act?

Incredibly, CDC defended the politician-demanded revisions to the report as being science-based, issuing a statement saying the changes were made based on an “internal clearance process, not based on any comments from outside CDC.”

My head is hurting.

This is just how far the sphere of misinformation has spread, and it is now far from clear just who we can, or should, trust going forth.

Move over Dr. Conley. Seems you’re not the only one connected to the White House with newly developed credibility problems.

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