Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York, is spreading COVID-19 falsehoods on Twitter.
It’s not surprising that misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is skyrocketing. Strikingly, however, high-ranking officials are also involved in misinformation scandals.
As a former New York mayor (New York being the hotspot of the COVID-19 US outbreak, and quite possibly the largest growing hotspot in the world), you’d expect some degree of responsibility from Giuliani.
However, Giulani’s claims are simply untrue, and potentially dangerous.
“Hydroxychloroquine has been shown to have a 100% effective rate treating COVID-19 yet Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is threatening doctors who prescribe it,” Giuliani tweeted.
“If Trump is for something – Democrats are against it. They’re okay with people dying if it means opposing Trump”.
The former NYC mayor copied the tweet from conservative youth activist Charlie Kirk. Kirk is no stranger to controversy. He founded a right-wing conservative organization called Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and has been regularly accused of inciting racism and anti-Semitism. Both Kirk and Giuliani’s accounts have been temporarily suspended after the tweets, as part of Twitter’s attempt to limit the spread of misinformation (and disinformation).
The evidence around hydroxychloroquine is simply not clear at this point. Some preliminary trials have indicated that hydroxychloroquine can have potential in some cases of COVID-19 (most notably, a French study), but other studies have reported that it is no better than standard care.
The science is just not in yet. But in true Trump fashion, the US President praised the drug and called it a potential “game-changer”.
“I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try,” Trump said. He later tweeted that the drug – if used in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin – could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”.
Trump was immediately contradicted by Dr. Anthony Fauci the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said there was only “anecdotal evidence” the drugs could help.
Other doctors have warned that in incorrect dosage, the drugs could be ineffective or even dangerous, causing poisoning and potentially even cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that can be fatal, according to The Los Angeles Times.
When you draw the line, it becomes very clear that we don’t really know what hydroxychloroquine does against COVID-19 — several large clinical trials have been kickstarted, but until that evidence comes in, we just don’t know.
Statements like Giuliani’s only work to create confusion, false hope, and mislead. It’s hard to disagree with Twitter’s decision to temporarily suspend these accounts. It can be sometimes difficult to draw the line on what constitutes misinformation, but this is clearly an instance of one.