Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cautions against ‘dangerous’ COVID-19 rhetoric from leaders

The Md. gov. said hundreds of calls came in after Trump's disinfectant comments.

April 26, 2020, 1:14 PM

After emergency hotlines saw an increase in questions about consuming disinfectants to treat the novel coronavirus -- based on the president's comments Thursday -- a bipartisan pair of governors each said Sunday that public officials have a responsibility to relay accurate medical information.

“When the person with the most powerful position on the planet is encouraging people to think about disinfectants -- whether it was serious or not -- people listen,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

“And I want to say, unequivocally, no one should be using disinfectants digested to fight COVID-19. Please don't do it. Just don't do it,” Whitmer said on ABC’s “This Week.”

President Donald Trump suggested in his Thursday briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force that sunlight, high humidity or possibly an "injection" of "the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute" could be COVID-19 treatments. He responded to backlash over the remarks on Friday saying that he was being sarcastic.

“This has been important to me from day one, communicating, very clearly on the facts, because people listen to these press conferences. They listen when the governor holds a press conference and they certainly pay attention when the president of the United States is standing there giving a press conference,” Gov. Larry Hogan said on “This Week,” appearing after Whitmer.

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Both governors -- Whitmer, a Democrat, and Hogan, a Republican -- said that their state health services had seen an uptick in inquiries on whether ingesting disinfectant materials could treat coronavirus.

“We have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control and so I think it's really important that every one of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information,” Whitmer said.

“We had hundreds of calls come in to our emergency hotline at our health department asking if it was -- if it was right to ingest Clorox or, you know, alcohol cleaning products, whether that was going to help them fight the virus, so we had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that which would kill people,” said Hogan.

When asked by Stephanopoulos why the president would make such comments, the Maryland governor said, “I can’t really explain it, George.”

“The president’s gotta focus on the message. Stick to the message and make sure that these press conferences are fact-based,” Hogan added.

The bipartisan pair of governors also criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for comments this week suggesting states hard-hit financially by the pandemic declare bankruptcy instead of looking for help from Congress.

“It's outrageous for Sen. McConnell to even suggest that the fact of the matter is, our general fund budget when adjusted for inflation is the same as it was during when Richard Nixon was our president,” Whitmer said.

Hogan took a more conciliatory tone towards his fellow Republican, but said, “I thought Mitch McConnell probably would regret making that comment the other day. I think it just slipped out, but I'm hopeful that we will be able to convince Senator McConnell to go along with the bipartisan bill in the Senate and the administration's commitment to help the states in that final stimulus package.”

In a separate interview on "This Week," Kevin Hassett, the president's economic adviser, said Trump is open to providing more funding for states.

ABC News’ Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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