On Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley said this when asked about President Donald Trump’s health and treatment:
“This morning the President is doing very well. … He is not on oxygen right now. He has not needed any today at all.”
Later in the day – like less than an hour after Conley’s statement – came a contradictory statement from a “source familiar with the President’s health” that said “the President’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.”
Asked about the discrepancy between the two statements on Sunday, Conley said this:
“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President in his course of illness has had. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we’re trying to hide something.”
Conley is a doctor. Not a press person. Not a campaign consultant. A doctor.
As such, it is not his job – or anything close to his job – to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the President or anyone else. It’s his job to provide facts. Facts like: has the President needed supplemental oxygen? What is his temperature? What is his prognosis? You know, medical facts.
But, that wasn’t even the worst thing that Conley said. It’s this sentence that really tipped everything over the edge.
I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we’re trying to hide something.
It’s hard to fathom what Conley was trying to say here. I’m not a doctor and even I know that the “course of the illness” is not impacted in any way shape or form by what a doctor says about it.
So, what is Conley talking about? My strong sense is that what he meant was that any negative information about Trump’s condition – aka the facts – would make the COVERAGE more negative. Which, again, is not Conley’s concern. Or, well, it shouldn’t be. Because, and I feel like I may have mentioned this before, he is a doctor and not a press secretary.
(White House communications director Alyssa Farah told PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor that Conley was trying to “project confidence” when he misled the public about Trump’s condition on Saturday. Right. Just as bad.)
Then, at the end, Conley gave up the game. He said he regretted that by not providing facts “it came off that we’re trying to hide something.”
No, it didn’t come off that way. That’s what happened. The White House – via its messenger Conley – purposely downplayed Trump’s condition through a series of incomplete, overly rosy and at times misleading statements.
This is all, of course, incredibly irresponsible. (I feel like a broken record but, well, it is.) While we’ve come to expect misinformation from people like Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and other paid operatives of the administration, it’s unsettling to hear it from a medical doctor. Even one who works for the President.