Friday, March 20, 2020


Every time I mention Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit, I'm reminded that Hoft is widely known as "the stupidest man on the Internet." I don't believe it. I've been blogging since the Bush era. Back then, Gateway Pundit was just one of many reasonably well-known right-wing blogs. But others that seemed more prominent at the time have stopped publishing or gone into dormancy, while Gateway Pundit has 2.75 million unique visitors every month, or at least it did in January 2018, according to The Washington Post. If Hoft is stupid, he's stupid all the way to the bank.

So what Gateway Pundit publishes has some impact on what at least a portion of America believes. Its stories regularly show up in your right-wing relatives' Facebook feeds. Right now, here's the lead story at GP:

Denialism is so two weeks ago. Now it's time to talk about miracle cures.

The main vector for this talk is the former epicenter of denialism, Fox News. Hoft writes:
There are now THREE international studies — China, Australia and France — that found that Chloroquine with Azithromycin Shows 100% Success Rate in Treating Coronavirus in 6 Days!

... tonight we heard more from Rep. Mark Green, a former Army Flight Surgeon, that the combination of Chloroquine with Azithromycin cleared the virus in 3 days in 100% of the patients in the study.
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) : The old reliable Malaria drug chloroquine, the newer version hydroxychloroquine has shown really good, three studies, one in Australia, one in China and now one in France mixed with azithromycin, just the old Z-Pac that we take for bronchitis, has had 100%. It cleared the virus, in some cases in three days, that cocktail in every one of the patients in that study… It’s very promising, 100% of the virus gone in six days!
Via FOX News @ Night:

Prior to that, we had GP promoting a couple of interviews with a hype artist identified as Dr. Gregory Rigano:
On Monday night Laura Ingraham reported that a new study revealed the anti-viral medication chloroquine is successful in fighting the coronavirus.

Laura invited Dr. Gregory Rigano, the co-author of the study to discuss the latest findings.

Dr. Rigano said their study found that those COVID-19 patients who took hydroxy-chloroquine were found free of the disease in 6 days. The patients were testing negative for the coronavirus in six days!

Dr. Rigano also said taking choroquine could act as a preventative.

This is a remarkable study!

Rigano also appeared on Tucker Carlson's show.

Problem #1: Rigano isn't a doctor -- he's a lawyer. (Note that his Twitter handle is @RiganoESQ.)

Problem #2: While this is a potentially promising treatment, the claims are being oversold, as Emma Betuel explains at Inverse. First, the "study" cited at GP isn't really a study.
... [It] is NOT A SCIENTIFIC PAPER, rather a Google document....

The Google document is not peer-reviewed, but it cites several peer-reviewed studies, as well as phone calls and email conversations with scientists....

Gregory Rigano is a co-author of the Google document. Rigano is not a scientist. He's a lawyer who has spoken about chloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment three times on Fox News this week.

... Gregory Poland is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic. He's the director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine research group.

"I would urge us to take these with a grain of salt," he tells Inverse regarding the hype around chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. "Until randomized clinical trials are published we can't tell if it's anecdote. Is it due to some unforeseen or improbable set of circumstances?"

"The medical literature is littered with tens of thousands of case reports like this where there is a claim of efficacy only to fall apart when randomized clinical trials are done."

... When the document was first released on Friday, March 13, there were three co-authors on the document, including Thomas Broker, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama. Broker's name has since been removed.

He calls the Google document "a pastiche of previous published research articles and recent news reports." He also tells Inverse that his name had been "gratuitously attached" to the document.

"I asked the actual authors to remove my name. I am glad that they did," he says.

"I neither contributed to, wrote any part of, nor had advance knowledge of this document. I have never conducted research on RNA virus pathogens," Broker confirms.

... In essence, the Google document doesn't present any new information. Instead, it highlights the fact that chloroquine has been used in other countries as a possible COVID-19 treatment, and has a history as an anti-viral.
So chloroquine, perhaps in combination with azithromycin, might be useful in fighting this disease. But we won't know that for a while.

Elon Musk is promoting this.

And, of course, the Hype Man in Chief was overselling it yesterday:
President Trump on Thursday exaggerated the potential of drugs available to treat the new coronavirus, including ... decades-old malaria remedies that hint of promise but so far show limited evidence of healing the sick....

The malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are among the remedies that have been tried in several countries....

In a White House briefing Thursday, Mr. Trump said the anti-malaria drugs had shown “tremendous promise.” ...

“They’ve gone through the approval process,” Mr. Trump said of the drugs. “It’s been approved, and they did.”

But the F.D.A. has not approved any drugs for use in the treatment of coronavirus, and the drugs were already available, to treat malaria as well as rheumatoid arthritis. To date, the F.D.A. has not added the coronavirus to the list of illnesses for which the drugs are specifically approved. Then again, doctors have been free to use both old malaria drugs for any purpose deemed appropriate.

At the briefing on Thursday, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, who has been the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration for only three months, tended to walk back some of the president’s more inflated predictions that these drugs might vanquish the virus altogether.

He said Mr. Trump had asked the agency to look into chloroquine to fight the coronavirus, and that it was setting up a large clinical trial to evaluate the drug.
So there's some reason to hope. But now we have a president who's incapable of telling the plain truth when hyperbole is possible and we have Fox News and Gateway Pundit asserting that these old drugs could be full cures and preventatives for everyone.

It's not true, and we have no solid reason to believe that we've even found a widely effective treatment yet, no matter what your right-wing relatives forward you.

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