He insists he was only joking, but when Donald Trump turned to his medical experts in front of the world's TV screens and asked if injecting bleach or disinfectant into humans could cure the coronavirus, he took a giant step on the road to losing the election.

Sure, there was already plenty of other baggage weighing him down.

But he'd already weathered so many storms to this point - the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the impeachment trial in the Senate, the Democrats' victory in the House elections in 2018 - that it was starting to look like a second term in office was better than a 50-50 bet.

But then the darn virus turned up. And the President struggled to deal with it from day one. He wanted it to go away because it was hurting his economy, and the economy was his big winning ticket.

So he tried to downplay the virus at his daily news briefings, where he would often talk for long periods about his belief that the pathogen would "just disappear one day".

He sometimes appeared to be annoyed with his medical experts if they seemed to be talking about how serious the COVID situation was in America.

At one of these briefings, he looked at his experts and remarked: "I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

"As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."

When the cameras turned to Dr Deborah Birx, his COVID response co-ordinator, she looked like the person who's too embarrassed to tell you your fly is undone.

Mr Trump's comments were seen as a bad gaffe, and public health experts worried they could also lead people to try to ingest disinfectant.

Doctors immediately warned against the unproven idea, saying it could kill people.

Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California, tweeted: "Trump's briefings are actively endangering the public's health. Boycott the propaganda. Listen to the experts.

"And please don't drink disinfectant."

It was a theme taken up by his rivals, who often mocked him and implored people: "Don't drink the bleach!"



There were many moments of controversy and gobsmacking madness throughout his four-year reign.

But his handling of the virus, the shocking US COVID death toll, his refusal to strongly support calls to wear a mask and THAT comment about disinfectant combined ensure he would not get a second term.

Originally published as The joke that backfired on Trump

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