Nancy Pelosi: "Not a good idea” for Trump to take hydroxychloroquine because he’s “morbidly obese”

The drug hasn't "been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his weight group," Pelosi says

By Igor Derysh
May 19, 2020 1:57PM (UTC)
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Nancy Pelosi; Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Alex Brandon)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., questioned President Donald Trump's purported use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic Monday because of his "age group" and "weight group."

"I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say," Pelosi told CNN. "So, I think that it's not a good idea."


Pelosi appeared to allude to Trump's 2019 physical, which found that he weighed 243 lbs. and had a body mass index of 30.4, inserting him into the "obese" category, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Pelosi's comments came after Trump claimed to be taking the unproven drug he repeatedly hyped as a potential coronavirus treatment as a prophylactic to prevent catching it despite the risk of side effects and little evidence of its effectiveness.

"Here's my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it," Trump said Monday. "So far, I seem to be OK."


The White House later issued a statement from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, though the statement did not actually say Trump was taking the drug nor that had Conley recommended it.

"After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from the treatment outweighed the relative risks," Conley said, carefully referring to the drug being used as a "treatment" — not a prophylactic.

Though the letter did not actually say that Trump was taking the drug, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters that the drug was prescribed to the president, and he was taking it.


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the president's decision "reckless."

"I know him saying he is taking it — whether he is or not — is reckless, reckless, reckless. It gives people false hope, has people avoid real medical attention and can actually cause them trouble. It is just dangerous what he did," Schumer told MSNBC.


The Food and Drug Administration last month issued a warning against the use of hydroxychloroquine "outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems." Multiple studies have cast doubt on its effectiveness in treating the coronavirus, but there's been even less evidence that it can work as a prophylactic.

Trump's comments prompted a stark warning from Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

"A VA study showed that among a population in a hospital receiving this treatment, those with vulnerable conditions — respiratory conditions, heart ailments — they died," he said. "I want to stress again: They died. If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst case scenario you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough: This will kill you."


Right after Cavuto went off the air, however, fellow Fox host Greg Gutfeld urged viewers to take the drug.

"If it's available to you and you can take it, you do it," he said. "That's a prudent way of looking at it."

Over on MSNBC, "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough accused Trump of lying about taking the drug.


"I have got to believe that Donald Trump is lying right now about taking this drug that his own administration said actually can kill you, doesn't give you the positive effects, and in fact, can cause situations, especially in people that are older like and obese like him, and can cause real health damage to those type of people," he said. "Any doctor prescribing that for political purposes, I've got to say, puts himself or herself in a very difficult position. So I just don't believe the president is taking something that his own administration says will kill him."

Other journalists questioned why Trump would take a potentially dangerous drug that has not proven to be effective while he refuses to wear a mask, which can significantly reduce the risk of transmission.

"If you are worried enough about the virus to take a drug that has not been proven or approved to prevent or treat the virus, but you are not worried enough to wear a mask and gloves, what the hell does that mean?" New York Magazine writer Olivia Nuzzi asked.

"Well," columnist Josh Barro quipped, "at least the president won't get malaria."

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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Aggregate Coronavirus Covid-19 Donald Trump Fox News Hydroxychloroquine Nancy Pelosi Neil Cavuto Politics Tv