President Donald Trump’s doctor told a news conference Saturday that Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus 72 hours ago ― a day earlier than previously announced ― only to backtrack later and say he misspoke.
Speaking at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where Trump headed on Friday following the news of his diagnosis, the president’s doctors presented an upbeat picture of Trump’s condition. But the conference ― and the numerous contradictions and clarifications that followed ― raised questions about the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis, the treatments he’s received and his overall health.
Physician Sean Conley referred to Trump as being “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would indicate the president was diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday. Trump did not announce until early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive.
Doctors also revealed that Trump showed symptoms on Thursday, including a “mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue.” The president received a “special antibody therapy” 48 hours ago, Conley said. The doctor was presumably referring to an “antibody cocktail” made by the company Regeneron, which Conley mentioned in a statement on Friday. If Trump received the treatment 48 hours ago, that would mean he got it midday on Thursday.
Trump attended multiple campaign events in Minnesota on Wednesday. On Thursday, he went to a fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey, with GOP donors, where attendees ate a buffet lunch. If the timeline Conley suggested is accurate, this would suggest that Trump attended one or more events after his diagnosis.
After the conference was over, an unnamed White House official attempted to clarify this timeline, telling reporters that when Conley said “72 hours” he meant that this was “Day 3” since Trump’s diagnosis late Thursday.
Later Saturday afternoon, Conley himself released a memo saying he had misspoken.
“The President was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1st,” he said.
He added that Trump received the antibody treatment on Friday, Oct. 2.
Trump’s doctors said he was not currently receiving supplemental oxygen, but repeatedly dodged questions about whether he had been on oxygen previously.
When a reporter asked, “He’s not received any supplemental oxygen?” Conley replied, “He is not on oxygen right now, that’s right.” When the reporter clarified, “Not received any at all?” Conley responded, “He’s not needed any this morning, today, at all, that’s right.”
Later, a reporter said he was going to try to “pin [Conley] down” on the oxygen question one more time. Conley answered, “Thursday, no oxygen. None at this moment, and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen.”
Following the news conference, The Associated Press reported that Trump was “administered supplemental oxygen” at the White House on Friday before he went to the hospital.
There’s also been confusion about the experimental “antibody cocktail” Trump received. Conley referred to the treatment twice as a “polyclonal” antibody therapy in official memos. But Saturday, a representative of Regeneron, the company that makes the treatment, said the term “polyclonal” is incorrect.
“It is two monoclonal antibodies,” spokesperson Hala Mirza told CBS News.
In one of Conley’s memos, Regeneron was also misspelled as “Regeron.”
During his remarks to the press, Conley said the president is now doing “very well.”
Another doctor, Sean Dooley, said Trump’s cardiac, liver and kidney functions were “normal”; that the president was having no trouble breathing or walking; and that he was in “exceptionally good spirits.” Dooley also quoted Trump as saying, “I feel like I could walk out of here today.”
Conley said Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing at any point, and previously only had a “little cough” and fever and felt generally “run down.” When asked when the president might be released from the hospital, Conley declined to estimate a date but said Trump was doing “so well.”
Immediately following the news conference, White House pool reporters ― media members who follow the president throughout the day ― released a statement from an anonymous source that contradicted that optimism.
“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” a source described as someone “familiar with the president’s health” said. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
Though the source was unnamed, video taken immediately after the conference made it apparent that it was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, The New York Times reported. The video showed Meadows asking pool reporters if they could talk off the record. The Associated Press attributed the quotes directly to Meadows.
Later in the afternoon, Meadows gave a sunnier-sounding quote to Reuters.
“The president is doing very well,” he told the publication. “He is up and about and asking for documents to review. The doctors are very pleased with his vital signs. I have met with him on multiple occasions today on a variety of issues.”
As for Trump himself, he said he was “feeling well” in a Saturday afternoon tweet praising the doctors and nurses at Walter Reed.