Mike Pence at a coronavirus vaccine roundtable in Miami, Florida: EPA
US vice president Mike Pence met this week with doctors featured in a viral video containing misinformation about the coronavirus, it has emerged.
The meeting took place just as the doctors’ video, which was shared by both the president and his son, was removed by social media platforms on the grounds that it contained misleading information.
The group, calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors”, posted the video on Monday. In it, they appear wearing white medical coats on the steps of the Supreme Court, taking turns to speak into a microphone at which they falsely claim that masks do not help control Covid-19 and that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can cure the disease.
One of the doctors, Simone Gold, tweeted that she and her comrades “met with Vice President Mike Pence to request the administration’s assistance in empowering doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine without political obstruction”.
Along with the controversial medication, she wrote: “We also discussed the recent censorship of doctors on social media platforms.”
James Todaro, another doctor at the meeting, said the group was “doing everything to restore the power of medicine back to doctors” and that “Doctors everywhere should be able to prescribe Hydroxychloroquine without repercussions or obstruction”.
Hydroxychloroquine, which has been repeatedly promoted by the president and other right-wing figures, has not been proven effective against Covid-19. The FDA withdrew the drug in June, and the World Health Organisation has advised against its use.
The video featuring the doctors’ false claims was seen by millions of people before it was removed from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube this week. Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours after he shared it; the president’s remained active, but the tweets featuring the video were removed. He defended the video after it was removed, saying it featured “very respected doctors”.
According to CNN, the most notorious of the doctors featured in the Supreme Court video was not present at the meeting. Stella Immanuel has become a viral sensation for her outlandish ideas, which extend well beyond hydroxychloroquine. Among other things, she has attributed various conditions to demons who have sex with women while they sleep, and claimed that alien DNA is secretly being used in medical treatments.
Mr Pence initially took a leading role in the White House’s pandemic response. He was tapped by Mr Trump to head up the administration’s coronavirus task force, and became a fixture at the president’s freewheeling daily briefings before they were stopped at the end of April.
However, the task force has been sidelined in recent months, with periodic reports it may be wound up as the administration tries to shift responsibility for resurgent outbreaks away from the White House and onto individual states.