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Trump ditches 'new tone' for old, false coronavirus theories

US President Donald Trump is back to promoting conspiracy theories about the coronavirus crisis
US President Donald Trump is back to promoting conspiracy theories about the coronavirus crisis JIM WATSON AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

Only days after proclaiming a sober new tone on the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump reverted to spreading misleading medical information, criticizing his top expert and promoting conspiracy theories.

Twitter took the rare step of removing clips tweeted by Trump from a video earlier deleted by Facebook in which a group of doctors tells Americans that masks are unnecessary and that hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, can cure the COVID-19 virus.

Twitter said Tuesday that tweeting the video was "in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy."

Twitter also blocked Trump's son Don Jr -- a major player in the president's struggling reelection campaign -- from tweeting for 12 hours after he uploaded a version of the video.

At the center of the group speaking on the video is a doctor named Stella Immanuel, who doubles as a right-wing preacher who believes in witches.

The physician, who calls herself "God's battle axe," claims in the video that "the virus has a cure" in hydroxychloroquine.

This is false. There is currently no cure for the coronavirus, which has spread around the world and already killed nearly 150,000 Americans, wreaking havoc in the world's largest economy.

A majority of medical authorities now have also decided, after some initial debate, that hydroxychloroquine in particular has no proven benefit for coronavirus patients and can be harmful. The US Food and Drug Administration revoked emergency authorization for its use in June.

Trump, however, has persistently pushed the notion of hydroxychloroquine as an answer to the crisis and says he took the drug for two weeks as a precaution.

- Anti-Fauci rants -

In his Twitter spree late Monday, the president also retweeted a growing right-wing conspiracy theory that the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Doctor Anthony Fauci, helped push coronavirus to hurt Trump's reelection in November.

The tweet, shared by Trump to his 84 million followers, claimed that Immanuel is highlighting "what should be the biggest scandal in modern American history."

This was "the suppression of #Hydroxychloroquine by Fauci & the Democrats to perpetuate Covid deaths to hurt Trump," the tweet reads.

Trump also attacked Fauci by retweeting a comment on a podcast hosted by his former advisor Steve Bannon that Fauci "misled the American public on many issues."

Fauci responded early Tuesday on ABC News saying he ignores Twitter. "I don’t tweet, I don’t even read them," he said.

"I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances," said Fauci, whose decades of experience include pioneering the fight against AIDS from the 1980s onward.

"We’re in the middle of a crisis with regard to a pandemic," he said. "This is what I’ve been trained for my entire professional life."

- New tone? -

Trump's Twitter activity was made more remarkable by the fact that just a week ago he embarked on a distinctly more serious tone when discussing the out-of-control health crisis.

Earlier Monday, he'd made a trip to North Carolina for a visit to a laboratory taking part in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump used the photo-op, where he was shown inspecting high-tech lab equipment at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Morrisville, to underline his support for the scientific response to the pandemic.

"We will achieve a victory over the virus by unleashing American scientific genius," he told reporters.

The facility has been awarded a contract to mass produce an experimental vaccine developed by Novavax, as part of a multi-billion dollar government initiative dubbed Operation Warp Speed.

However, Trump has repeatedly wavered between between trust in the country's scientists and sympathy for claims on the right that the dangers of the illness have been exaggerated to weaken his presidency.

The United States is by far the worst-hit country in the world, with more than 4.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Trump's support in pre-election polls has plummeted, with a large majority of voter saying they distrust the president on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

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