If you’ve been on social media this week, you’ve probably seen several posts talking about the group known as “America’s Frontline Doctors”, a collection of physicians who have been critical of the U.S. response to the pandemic. On Monday, July 27th, the group stood in downtown Washington, D.C. to give a press conference on why the drug hydroxychloroquine should be used to prevent and cure COVID-19. They made a slew of misleading claims that quickly drew the ire of the medical community.
The 45-minute video was broadcast live via the conservative platform Breitbart on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook version received 17 million views and got nearly 600,000 shares.
However, it was eventually pulled from every platform. All three social media companies said they removed the video for promoting false information about the virus. It was even retweeted by President Trump and his son Donald Jr., who was then suspended from Twitter for 12 hours for violating its misinformation policies regarding COVID-19.
The doctors in the video have a long history of spreading medically inaccurate information, in addition to claims about alien DNA, spirit wives, and other conspiracy theories about the virus. Let’s find out how this video came to be and why it’s considered so dangerous.
Who Are “America’s Frontline Doctors?”
The press conference on July 27th was part of the White Coat Summit. Several doctors, all wearing white lab coats, took turns criticizing the scientific consensus around the coronavirus. The group was even joined by Congressman Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina in the House of Representatives. The doctors have connections to the Tea Party, a conservative political group that would like to see President Trump reelected in the fall.
Simone Gold, the founder of the group, turned heads when she and her colleagues sent a letter to President Trump in May asking him to reopen the country as quickly as possible. She has been linked to numerous conservative causes that do not support state-wide shutdowns and has appeared on several right-wing podcasts and talk shows recently. The letter referred to shelter-in-place orders as “a mass casualty incident” – despite evidence that keeping people at home can inhibit the spread of the virus.
Based in Los Angeles, Gold has an active medical license, according to the Medical Board of California. She specializes in emergency medicine and general practice and graduated from Rosalind Franklin University’s Chicago Medical School in 1989.
Holding these qualifications, she recently told the Associated Press that there is “no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned” about COVID-19 – even though most doctors say otherwise.
Dr. Stella Immanuel, another member of the group, has also been getting plenty of attention on social media for her claims about the virus. During the press conference, she claimed, “The virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax. You don’t need masks. I know they don’t want to open schools. No, you don’t need people to be locked down. There is prevention and there is a cure.”
Dr. Immanuel has a Texas medical license. She runs a small clinic next to her church, Firepower Ministries. She regularly uploads her sermons to social media, including one in which she says medical problems like cysts are caused by sex with “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives”. She has also said that scientists are using the DNA of aliens to create vaccines to prevent people from becoming religious.
These doctors are urging those who used hydroxychloroquine to cure themselves of the coronavirus to come forward and share their story, so the world can know the truth.
They are also relying on social media influencers to share their content instead of going through the usual channels, such as major news networks.
Hydroxychloroquine is a malaria drug that can cause serious side effects, including heart problems and even death, if used improperly.
However, America’s Frontline Doctors believe that it should be used to prevent and cure the coronavirus, rendering face masks, social distancing, and state-wide closures pointless.
If only science backed up what they were saying.
Let’s be clear: Hydroxychloroquine is being studied in several clinical trials for its potential to treat COVID-19, but, according to the World Health Organization, “There is currently no proof that hydroxychloroquine or any other drug can cure or prevent COVID-19.”
President Trump has been promoting and defending the drug for months. He admitted that he’s been taking the drug for weeks and that he feels fine. He says political bias is getting in the way of its potential. The president regularly accuses health experts and scientists of rejecting this medication as a possible cure simply because he’s the one promoting it.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases recently came out with a strong rebuke of the drug. “We know that every single good study – and by good study I mean randomized control study, in which the data are firm and believable – has shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of COVID-19,” he recently told a reporter.
The FDA issued an emergency-use authorization for the drug earlier this year, but it has since been revoked. Last month, the agency even cautioned against widespread use of the drug, following reports of “serious heart rhythm problems” and other health issues.
This drug is quickly becoming one of the most controversial in the country thanks to recent remarks by the president and America’s Frontline Doctors. Despite these outlandish claims, the science is not on their side. Hydroxychloroquine may have a role to play down the line, but it’s not the cure these doctors have made it out to be. Keep this story in mind as you push back against misinformation about the virus in your community.