Donald Trump has abruptly ended a media briefing on the coronavirus after being asked about his retweet promoting a doctor who claims masks are unnecessary and there is already a cure.
Yesterday, the US President and his son, Donald Jr, both shared video footage from an event in Washington DC, where a group of doctors argued hydroxychloroquine – a drug heavily promoted by Trump – should be used to treat the virus.
The event's attendees wore white lab coats bearing the label "America's Frontline Doctors". That group is led by Dr Simone Gold, who in May said there was "no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned" about Covid-19.
One of the doctors, a GP from Houston named Dr Stella Immanuel, claimed to have successfully treated hundreds of people with the drug hydroxychloroquine.
"I'm here because I have personally treated over 350 patients with Covid," she said.
"I put them on hydroxychloroquine, I put them on zinc, I put them on Zithromax, and they are all well.
"We don't need to die. There is a cure for Covid.
"You don't need masks. There is a cure."
But Trump's support for Immanuel comes with dangers after it was revealed she has also made other bizarre medical claims including that doctors are using alien DNA to treat people.
During today's coronavirus media briefing at the White House, Trump was asked about his promotion of the group.
"I think they're very respected doctors. There was a woman who was spectacular," the President said. He did not specify which woman he was talking about.
CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins then asked him specifically about Immanuel.
"Mr President, the woman that you said is a great doctor in that video that you retweeted last night said that masks don't work and there is a cure for Covid-19, both of which health experts say is not true," Collins said.
"She's also made videos saying that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens, and that they're trying to make a vaccine to make you immune from becoming religious. So what is the logic in retweeting that?"
"I can tell you this. She was on air, along with many other doctors. They were big fans of hydroxychloroquine," Trump replied.
"And I thought she was very impressive in the sense that, from where she came – I don't know which country she comes from – but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice.
"But I know nothing about her," he added.
The President then pointed to CBS reporter Paula Reid and told her to "go ahead", clearly intending to take another question. But Reid yielded to Collins, giving her a chance to ask a follow-up.
"But she said masks don't work, and last week you said, real quick, last week you said masks -" Collins started to say.
"OK, thank you very much everyone," said Trump, turning and walking out of the room.
Collins was presumably trying to ask Trump about his comments last week, when he told Americans they should wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus.
"Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact," he said at the time, adding that he himself "will use it gladly" and has "no problem with it".
"When you can, use the mask. If you're close to each other, if you're in a group, I would put it on."
Now he is praising a doctor who says masks are unnecessary.
The United States' death toll currently stands at 152,000, and the country is approaching 4.5 million confirmed infections.
Today, Gold revealed her group had been allowed to meet with Vice President Mike Pence to lobby him to "empower doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine without political obstruction".
Immanuel, the founder of a church called "Fire Power Deliverance Ministries", has made some truly wild medical claims in the past.
For example, she has said many gynaecological problems are the result of "tormenting spirits" having sex with women in their dreams.
"Many women suffer from astral sex regularly. Astral sex is the ability to project one's spirit man into the victim's body and have intercourse with it. The practice is very common amongst Satanists," she said during one "sermon".
"They are responsible for serious gynaecological problems. We call them all kinds of names – endometriosis, we call them molar pregnancies, we call them fibroids, we call them cysts, but most of them are evil deposits from the spirit husband."
She also claimed "alien DNA" is being used in modern medicine.
"They're using all kinds of DNA, even alien DNA, to treat people," she said.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have all removed the video Trump shared, saying it includes misleading claims about hydroxychloroquine and skates over the potential dangers that come with taking it.
In a statement, Facebook said the video was "sharing false information about cures and treatments" for the virus.
Today's press conference included another particularly strange moment, as Trump told an African-American reporter he looked like Michael Bloomberg, who is a 78-year-old white man.
A different journalist had asked the President why a planned meeting with pharmaceutical executives at the White House hadn't gone ahead. He didn't know, and said he thought it might be happening tomorrow.
"Sorry about the dates. I see how upset you are by it," he told her, before pointing at Bloomberg News reporter Mario Parker.
"Yes, Bloomberg. Bloomberg. Mr Bloomberg," said Trump.
"You look like Mr Bloomberg. Go ahead. I think you look much better, actually."
The President's promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment of the virus goes back months.
At the end of March, America's Food and Drug Administration did grant an emergency use authorisation to allow doctors to prescribe it to patients who were hospitalised and not responding well to other treatments.
However, a month later it issued an official warning about the drug, saying it had "not been proven safe or effective" for treating Covid-19.
Clinical trials are underway and more are being planned to firmly determine whether the drug could benefit patients. Those trials will also examine whether it's effective as a preventative measure among health care workers.
In the meantime, the FDA has warned of case reports showing "serious heart-related adverse events and death" in patients who received hydroxychloroquine.
The "adverse events" in question include abnormal heart rhythms, QT interval prolongation, ventricular tachycardia (a dangerously rapid heart rate) and ventricular fibrillation.
"The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with Covid-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin and other QT prolonging medicines," the regulatory body says.
"We would like to remind healthcare professionals and patients of the known risks associated with hydroxychloroquine.
"Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing Covid-19.
"Hydroxychloqoruine and chloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and a dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia. These risks may increase when these medicines are combined with other medicines known to prolong the QT interval, including the antibiotic azithromycin, which is also being used in some cases without FDA approval for this condition.
"Patients who also have other health issues such as heart and kidney disease are likely to be at increased risk of these heart problems when receiving these medicines."
When Trump first started hyping hydroxychloroquine in March, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Adminsitration (TPA) issued its own warning.
"Clinical trials are underway around the world examining the potential to treat Covid-19. However, these medicines pose well-known serious risks to patients, including cardiac toxicity (potentially leading to sudden heart attacks), irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar (potentially leading to coma)," the TPA said.
"Given the limited evidence for effect against Covid-19, as well as the risk of significant adverse effects, the TGA strongly discourages the use of hydroxychloroquine at this time other than in a clinical trial setting or in a controlled environment in the treatment of severely ill patients in hospital."