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Pelosi slams Trump for taking hydroxychloroquine, calls him 'morbidly obese'

The FDA warns against using the drug outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial because of the risk of heart rhythm problems.
Image: Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday, May 14, 2020. Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., chastised President Donald Trump on Monday for his decision to take hydroxychloroquine, saying that health experts have warned about its effects and that it could be harmful to the president because he's "morbidly obese."

"As far as the president is concerned, he's our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese, they say. So, I think it's not a good idea," Pelosi said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN.

On Tuesday, Trump was asked by reporters during a rare trip to Capitol Hill whether he had a reaction to the speaker's remarks.

"I don't," he said. "I don't respond to her. I think she's a waste of time."

A few minutes later, he said, "Pelosi is a sick woman. She's got a lot of problems — a lot of mental problems."

Pelosi's comment came after Trump said at the White House a few hours earlier that he had started taking the drug after consulting with the White House physician.

"A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers — before you catch it," Trump said at the White House. "I happen to be taking it. ... I'm taking it — hydroxychloroquine — right now."

On Tuesday, Trump told reporters on Capitol Hill, "I think it gives you an additional level of safety, but you can ask many doctors are in favor of it. Many front-line workers won't go there unless they have the hydroxy. And so again, this is an individual decision to make, but it's had a great reputation. And if it was somebody else other than me, people would say, 'Gee, isn't that smart?'"

The FDA, however, issued a warning last month that cautioned against the use of the medicine outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.

In 2018, the White House physician at the time, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said that Trump had an LDL cholesterol level of 143, well above the desired level of 100 or less. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said at the time that the information indicated that Trump has a common form of heart disease. Last year, the White House said that based on Trump’s annual physical, he weighed 243 pounds, gaining four pounds from the previous year. At Trump's height of 6 foot 3, his weight last year was considered obese on the body mass index scale.

In a statement late Monday, White House physician Sean P. Conley said that he had discussed the drug with Trump. "After numerous discussions he and I had for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks," Conley wrote.

Conley noted that one of Trump's staffers, a valet, tested positive for COVID-19 recently, though the president is tested daily and they have all been negative.

In an interview with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested that the president may not be telling the truth about his use of hydroxychloroquine.

“Who knows if it's true? He may not have been taking it for all we know. He just likes to make a splash," Schumer said on Monday. "And I want to make a comment on that, Steve. What the president did with hydroxychloroquine was reckless, simply reckless."

Schumer repeated the criticism Tuesday on the Senate floor, saying Trump has "taken an unproven treatment for a disease he doesn't have."

"Please, citizens of America, don't take hydroxychloroquine as a prevention for COVID," Schumer said. "It is not, medical experts have said it is not. Remember, it is risky. The FDA. has said it has risks."