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Updated: Aug 24, 2020

April 26, 2020

In the future, almost every American will remember the day our President suggested publicly that it might be a great idea to inject disinfectant, or some kind of “powerful light,” into the body as a preventative or a cure for COVID-19.

Such action, he said, might have the effect of knocking the virus right out of your system.

Someday, when you tell your grandkids about this, they’ll likely scoff, “That didn’t really happen!” And really, who could blame them?

Explain to them that it’s so outrageous, it has to be true. That as awful as it was, it was also hilarious … or maybe the other way around: so hilarious, yet awful. And true, did I mention true?

You can love, like, or hate this President, but I just don’t see how anybody ever feels safe in this country with him in charge.

These days it’s all so scary — the virus, the economy, the Trump administration’s attempts to shield us (or themselves?) from those ugly realities — that we can hardly be blamed for grabbing a laugh wherever we can find one.

I was watching the press conference when Trump went into his now-famous “I’m no doctor, but …” riff about how someone out there (scientists? Researchers? Ordinary citizens terrified of catching the virus?) should seriously consider pursuing his ideas.

Late-night TV hosts and internet comics, from Trevor Noah to Stephen Colbert to James Corden, joined by the musically gifted and always-outrageous Randy Rainbow, had a blast sending up Donald “I’m-not-a-doctor” Trump on Friday.

Comedian Randy Rainbow

The “inject disinfectant” laughs started rolling the day after comedian Sarah Cooper made what became the viral video (you’ll excuse the expression) about Trump’s gaffe almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

What makes her video so powerful is that, although she provided some inspired facial expressions and gesturing, she didn’t edit the audio at all. Trump’s own words, verbatim, turned the episode (and her mockery of it) into a worldwide sensation.

Of course, it became necessary for the White House, the Clorox and the Lysol corporations, the CDC and to make it clear that the President didn’t actually mean you should inject disinfectant. ran an article titled, “Do Not Inject Yourself with Bleach to Cure Coronavirus, Holy Crap.” Many other sites, news outlets, and even Twitter posts came out in a big, unified chorus to say what should be obvious even to the most hardcore Trump fanatics.

But by the time the warnings were circulating, so was Trump’s predictable denial that what happened … didn’t really happen. Even he couldn’t flatly lie his way out of this one, so he did the next best thing: he disavowed it.

“I was being sarcastic,” he said, “ … just to see what would happen.”

Well, he saw, all right. We all saw. And as battered by audacious falsehoods by this President as we all are by now, even We, the People, were flabbergasted.

The very next day (yesterday), there was no White House press conference for the first time in weeks. Nor have we seen the President and his task force today.

A lot of people have been feeling increasingly irritated, if not outraged, by the daily briefings, anyway. They say Trump is using them as campaign rallies, a charge that sounds right to me. I think he is abusing the attention that we give him, and that news outlets are obligated to give him, by hogging the spotlight for as much as two solid hours, using the occasions as bragfests, and, yes, lying. A lot. Mostly about what a great job he and his administration is doing about corona, while the death toll climbs and health care workers brandish placards in front of hospitals.

As time has gone on, many networks have been under pressure to refrain from airing these self-serving displays (he has even stooped to presenting a self-congratulatory Power Point presentation in case any of us weren’t convinced by his repeated verbal declarations) that became widely referred to as Presidential propaganda.

But speaking as a former journalist, there is no way a news outlet doesn’t show up when a President speaks. If you’re an editor, you have to send someone, and if you’re a reporter, you have to go. But some outlets, MSNBC included, did recently start airing the live briefings with a slight delay, for fact-checking purposes, while others stopped sending reporters for health reasons, or aired them only after significant editing for brevity.

Now that they seem to have stopped, maybe everyone will be happy: Trump won’t have to keep facing the jeering crowds miming injecting themselves with Lysol, and we don’t have to keep watching him make a fool of himself at a time when, frankly, we really could use an kind or encouraging word from him.

But at least, thanks to Sarah Cooper, Randy Rainbow, Steven Colbert and so many other national treasures, we have something to smile about in these dark days … or is that a grimace?

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