Man Eats Fish Tank Cleaner and Dies – Media Blames Trump
Man dies after eating fish tank cleaner – media blames President Donald Trump. It may sound like a Babylon Bee headline, but I assure you it is not.
As the National Review’s Charles Cooke reports: From NBC News comes one of the most irresponsible pieces of “journalism” I’ve seen in a long while. It revolves around an interview with a 61-year-old woman from Arizona who is currently in the ICU, and who, tragically, just saw her husband die in front of her. In tone, it is cast as a public-service announcement of sorts, aimed at Americans who do not want to end up in her position. “My advice,” the woman explains, is “don’t believe anything that the President says and his people because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Throughout, the woman tells NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard that she hopes to share her “advice” with the public. “Educate the people!” she implores him at one point. And he has. Last night, NBC pushed the story out enthusiastically on its website, on Twitter, and beyond, and it was shared widely by journalists and celebrities who were only too keen to employ it as partisan ammunition.
There is a problem with the story, however: It’s nonsense. Sad as their predicament is, the only “advice” to be gleaned from the couple’s behavior is “don’t be a unimaginable moron.” The headline of NBC’s story is “Arizona man dies after ingesting chloroquine in an attempt to prevent coronavirus.” But this is not correct. He did not “ingest chloroquine,” and neither did his wife. Rather, he ingested chloroquine phosphate, which his wife found in her back pantry in the form of fish tank cleaner.
[This is the] equivalent of a person seeing a bucket of chlorine next to her swimming pool and drinking it because the letters on the outside are arranged in a similar order to the word “chloroquine.” And the idea that the president is to blame for this is . . . well, it’s simply incomprehensible to me.
While some online have insensitively been quick to mock the couple for not knowing better, this is a tragic story nonetheless. But what it isn’t is an indictment of the Trump administration, who has simply said that chloroquine could end up being a viable treatment.
Yet even if Trump had explicitly recommended the drug (which he didn’t – and would require a doctor anyway), this would still be a non-story. The Federalist’s Sean Davis mocked the illogic here perfectly:
Trump: Penicillin was a life-saving discovery.
Some Moron: I’m going to eat all the mold and live forever.
Media: Trump murdered that poor man.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 24, 2020
Countless other publications picked up the non-story, all incorrectly referring to the fish tank cleaner as a Trump approved drug. Among the outlets to spread it included ABC, Axois, Buzzfeed, CNN, the Daily Beast, Forbes, NPR, Slate, New York Times, Huffington Post, USA Today, the Hill, Sky News, CBC News, among others. The never-Trumper usual suspects (Rick Wilson, Tom Nichols, Jen Rubin, and Max Boot) also joined in to spread fake news.
Axois retracted their story – but that’s not something to commend. A falsehood is always able to get halfway around the world before the truth has the chance to get out of bed. For every hundred people who saw the initial misleading story, only a few will see the correction (and most will be people like us who don’t mindlessly believe every headline we see). The most gullible will always still believe the falsehood (after all, just look at how many are still spreading the hoax that Trump called Coronavirus a hoax, or the lie that Trump called the crazies in Charlottesville “fine people”).
We have deleted this tweet and corrected our story because it did not reflect the full nature of the self-medication done with an additive commonly used to clean fish tanks. https://t.co/0zucqRaIkI pic.twitter.com/3YY86rju2w
— Axios (@axios) March 24, 2020
They could’ve just reported the truth in the first place. It’s not like there was new information that retconned the story – they chose to be as misleading as possible.
And one last thought – suppose chloroquine does turn out to be an effective treatment. When people die because the media scared them away from it, are they responsible for those deaths?