Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying during a speech on the economy that Trump had given up trying to manage a crisis he’s ill equipped to solve.
“And when it comes to COVID-19, after months of doing nothing, other than predicting the virus would disappear, or maybe if you drank bleach you may be okay, Trump has simply given up,” said Biden, who delivered his remarks at a metalworks factory near his hometown of Scranton on Thursday.
Trump spoke about the role he thought disinfectants could play in tackling an infection caused by the virus during a now infamous April 23 briefing. But he didn’t say people should drink bleach.
His comments came after William Bryan, the undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, presented a study that found sun exposure and cleaning agents like bleach can kill the virus when it lingers on surfaces.
Trump remarked on the effectiveness of those methods and wondered if they could help address infections in the human body.
Here are his full comments:
“A question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposedly we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. (To Bryan) And I think you said you’re going to test that, too. Sounds interesting, right?”
“And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.”
Later, Trump clarified his comments after a reporter asked Bryan whether disinfectants could actually be injected into COVID-19 patients.
“It wouldn’t be through injections, almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.”
Trump did not explicitly recommend ingesting a disinfectant like bleach. Nevertheless, his remarks led some companies and state agencies to issue warnings about ingesting disinfectants. The maker of Lysol said in a statement that "under no circumstance" should its products be used in the human body.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment about what evidence the former vice president relied on when he claimed the president suggested Americans drink bleach to combat the virus.
Biden said Trump said drinking bleach could help fight the coronavirus. Trump did not specifically recommend ingesting disinfectants, but he did express interest in exploring whether disinfectants could be applied to the site of a coronavirus infection inside the body, such as the lungs. We rate Biden’s claim Mostly False.
C-SPAN, "President Trump with Coronavirus Task Force Briefing," April 23, 2020
PolitiFact, “In Context: What Donald Trump said about disinfectant, sun and coronavirus,” April 24, 2020
RB, “Improper use of Disinfectants,” April 2020
Rev, "Donald Trump Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript April 23," April 23, 2020
TV Eyes, accessed April 24, 2020
PolitiFact is a nonpartisan, fact-checking website operated by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies.