The internal White House coronavirus task force battle over hydroxychloroquine, Donald Trump’s favorite unproven COVID-19 treatment. Peter Navarro says being a "social scientist" gives him qualifications on reading reports (and practicing medicine?).
April 6, 2020

The internal White House coronavirus task force battle over hydroxychloroquine, Donald Trump’s favorite unproven COVID-19 treatment, burst into the news over the weekend when Trump refused to let Anthony Fauci answer a question on the medical evidence for the treatment. That moment came out of a major blow-up between Fauci and economic adviser Peter Navarro in a Saturday meeting.

Fauci has repeatedly tried to tamp down expectations about hydroxychloroquine, pointing out that there are no good studies of the drug and that “There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect, so I think in terms of science, I don’t think we can definitely say it works.” But a source told Axios that, in Saturday’s meeting, “the first words out of [Navarro’s] mouth are that the studies that he's seen, I believe they're mostly overseas, show 'clear therapeutic efficacy.’” When Fauci pushed back, Navarro became confrontational, raising his voice and lying about Fauci’s past positions on administration actions around coronavirus.

Navarro was challenged on this in a Monday morning CNN interview. “What are your qualifications to weigh in on medicines more than Dr. Anthony Fauci?” anchor John Berman asked. “Why should we listen to you and not Dr. Fauci?”

Navarro first advocated that CNN talk to a specific doctor who would agree with him, but as for his own qualifications, “My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I'm a social scientist. I have a PhD, and I understand how to read statistical studies whether it’s in medicine, law, economics, or whatever.”

Um. Sounds like Harvard should be calling Navarro back for some remedial work on reading statistical studies and the general concept of not cherry-picking studies to find the ones you like the best. Because, dude, I too am a social scientist with a PhD and an understanding of how to read statistical studies and … as Fauci said on Sunday, “the data are really just at best suggestive,” with no large controlled studies and the existing small studies not in agreement on what, if any, effects hydroxychloroquine has on COVID-19. And if Navarro can’t see that, it’s because he’s either forgotten how to read a statistical study or because he’s too committed to sucking up to Trump to be able to read a set of them honestly on this subject. But it’s obvious that Trump has chosen his path—hoping for a magic cure to emerge, magically—and that Navarro has chosen the winning argument.

Posted with permission from Daily Kos.

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