Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube removed videos of a press conference on July 27 held by a group of doctors, citing violation of their policies. Members of the group, called “America’s Frontline Doctors,” had spoken in support of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in treating and preventing COVID-19, and alleged that there’s widespread misinformation about the drug.
At the press conference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, the group also called for a “sustainable approach” to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, urging for an opening up of schools and businesses.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube removed the 45-minute video of the press conference several hours after it was shared to the platforms and had gained millions of views, including a reported more than 15 million views on Facebook alone.
A Facebook spokesperson said it removed the video “for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” and told CNN that it will instead show “messages in News Feed to people who have reacted to, commented on or shared harmful COVID-19-related misinformation that we have removed, connecting them to myths debunked by the WHO [World Health Organization].”
On Twitter, President Donald Trump had shared two clips from the summit. But by early July 28, Twitter took down the videos. Twitter also took down a video of the press conference by Breitbart News and shared by Donald Trump Jr. A Twitter spokesperson told CNN that the actions were taken in line with its “Covid [misinformation] policy.”
YouTube also removed the video of the press conference, replacing the footage with a message saying the content was removed for “violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”
The press conference was part of a two-day summit the group held, called the “White Coat Summit,” on Capitol Hill. According to the recently-formed group’s website, the goal of the summit is, in part, to “create the opportunity for frontline doctors to talk directly to the American people,” and “educate and inform Congresspersons, who have also been subject to widespread misinformation.”
During the press conference, Dr. Stella Immanuel, a primary care doctor at Rehoboth Medical Center in Houston, Texas, said that she has treated more than 350 patients with COVID-19 by using a combination of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and azithromycin, and characterized the combination of drugs as a “cure.”
“For the past few months, after taking care of over 350 patients, we’ve not lost one. Not a diabetic, not a somebody with high blood pressure, not somebody with asthma, not an old person. We’ve not lost one patient,” she said.
“I came here to Washington, D.C. to say ‘America, nobody needs to die.'”
Immanuel, who is also a Christian deliverance minister with an active YouTube account showing her work at “Fire Power Ministries,” criticized studies that have suggested that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective in treating COVID-19, calling such studies “fake science” backed by “fake pharma companies.”
“I want to know who is sponsoring that study. I want to know who is behind it, because there is no way I can treat 350 patients and counting and nobody is dead and they all did better,” she said.
She later alleged that “any study that says hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work is fake science,” adding that “I want them to show me how it doesn’t work.”
“This is what I would say to all those studies, they had high doses, they were given to wrong patients. I will call them fake science. … How is it going to work for 350 patients for me and they’re all alive, and then somebody say it doesn’t work? Guys, all them studies, fake science,” she said.
Immanuel also said she herself is using hydroxychloroquine, and her staff and other doctors she knows are also on the medication to help prevent COVID-19. She said that “by the very mechanism of action, it works early and as a prophylaxis.”
She also pushed for “everybody” to “get on hydroxychloroquine” in order to reopen schools and businesses, and also said that people “don’t need a mask” when there is a “cure.”
Immanuel insists she will continue to administer the drug to patients affected by the CCP virus.
“I’ve gotten all kinds of threats. … I don’t care. I’m not going to let Americans die. If this is the hill where I get nailed on, I will get nailed on it. I don’t care,” she said. “You can report me to the bots, you can kill me, you can do whatever, but I’m not going to let Americans die.”
She commented on remarks by doctors who have told her that double-blind studies are required.
“When somebody is dead, they are dead. They’re not coming back tomorrow to have an argument. They are not come back tomorrow to discuss the double blinded study and the data,” she said. “All of you doctors that are waiting for data, if six months down the line you actually found out that this data shows that this medication works, how about your patients that have died? You want a double-blinded study where people are dying? It’s unethical.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned health professionals in April that the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of a hospital or research settings due to sometimes fatal side effects, including abnormal heart rhythms or a rapid heart rate. In June, the FDA ended the emergency-use authorization for both hydroxychloroquine and the closely-related chloroquine in treating COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were approved decades ago for use against ailments including malaria. They were used early during the pandemic in treatment of patients with the CCP virus, and doctors around the world said they worked against the disease.
Dr. Simone Gold, a Los Angeles-based emergency medicine specialist and founder of the “America’s Frontline Doctors” group, said at the July 27 press conference that media outlets at large haven’t covered the “ton” of data on hydroxychloroquine. She said the group’s website contains a compendium of studies related to the drug.
“The safety of HCQ is irrefutable,” the group’s website reads. “The evidence supporting HCQ efficacy against COVID-19 is also overwhelming. All negative HCQ studies have used either: too much, used it alone (it needs Zinc), or used it late (it should be early).”
Gold has been a vocal supporter of reopening the country. In May, she told The Associated Press that she started to speak out against stay-at-home orders because there was “no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned” about COVID-19. She also led an open letter to President Donald Trump in May that warned about the consequences of a prolonged shutdown. The letter was signed by more than 600 doctors.
Dr. James Todaro, a researcher on COVID-19, told the press conference that hydroxychloroquine is an over-the-counter drug in many countries and alleged that there has been an “orchestrated attack” on the drug.
“When have you ever heard of a medication generating this degree of controversy? A 65-year-old medication that has been on the World Health Organization’s safe, essential list of medications for years,” he said.
Todaro, who continues to share information about the drug on his Twitter page, said that Google removed a paper that he had co-authored in March sharing evidence on the hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy against COVID-19, and that since then, there has been a “tremendous amount of censorship” of doctors who share information about the potential successes of the drug.
Todaro also said the alleged misinformation on the issue “has reached the highest orders of medicine” and noted the case of a study on hydroxychloroquine in May published in The Lancet, which he calls “one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals in the world.” The World Health Organization had temporarily suspended testing the drug due to the study, but resumed its clinical trial in early June.
“It was independent researchers like us who care about patients, who care about the truth that dug into this study and determined that it was actually fabricated data. The data was not real,” he said. “And we did this so convincingly that this study was retracted by The Lancet less than two weeks after it was published. This is almost unheard of, especially for a study of this magnitude.”
“I apologize to everyone for the fact that there is so much misinformation out there, and it’s so hard to find the truth,” Todaro said. “And unfortunately, it’s going to take looking at other places for the truth. That’s why we formed frontline doctors here to try to help get the real information out there.”
Major clinical trials in the United States analyzing hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness and safety are ongoing.
Doctors Urge Reopening, ‘Sustainable Approach’
Dr. Robert Hamilton, a pediatrician from Santa Monica, California, urged for a reopening of schools. He said at the press conference that children “as a general rule, are taking this virus very, very well,” with few getting infected, and that those who are infected “are being hospitalized in low numbers.”
He also said children aren’t responsible for driving the spread of the CCP virus, and urged for children to be sent back to school for in-person learning.
“We need to normalize the lives of our children … We do that by getting them back in the classroom,” he said. “Yes, we can be careful, I’m all for that, we all are. But I think the important thing is we need to not act out of fear. We need to act out of science.”
Hamilton said he believes that national unions, including teachers’ unions, “are going to demand money,” which poses a barrier for children returning to school, adding, “That’s where we need to focus our efforts and fight back.”
“I think that it’s fine to give people money for [personal protective equipment] and different things in the classroom, but some of their demands are really ridiculous,” he said, noting how the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles wants to defund the police.
Dr. Dan Erickson, co-owner of Accelerated Urgent Care, a network of urgent care facilities in California, called on the nation to open up schools and businesses.
“We can socially distance and wear some masks, but we can also open the schools and open businesses,” Erickson said.
“We need to take an approach that’s sustainable. A sustainable approach is slowing things down, opening up schools, opening up businesses. And then we can allow the people to have their independence and their personal responsibility to choose to wear masks and socially distance, as opposed to putting edicts on them, kind of controlling them,” he said.
At the summit, referring to the CCP virus, Erickson told attendees that “99.8 percent of people get through this with little to no progressive or significant disease.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.