Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

Apr 23: At the daily Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing, President Trump discusses injecting disinfectants into the body (The next day he says he was being sarcastic. He doesn’t seem sarcastic in the video). Another 4.4 million Americans file for jobless benefits in the last week.*

From the Cutting Room Floor...

Americans have been consuming a lot of electronic media in quarantine. Netflix has seen a surge of 16 million new accounts.[1] Video games lucratively supplement watching Netflix. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, for instance, is all the rage. As Imad Khan at the New York Times has noted, Animal Crossing offers a paradise in the midst of this waiting and fear and chaos… a place where money falls from trees, “and a talking racoon can approve you for a mortgage.”[2]

Many of these entertainment products are advertisement-supported. And the ads are already getting tiresome. Brands keep trotting out “we’re going to get through this” and “better together” and “in these challenging times” to sell everything from pick-up trucks to cheese puffs. Every ad bleeds fake inspiration and sentimentality or reminds us to stay home, as if we had a choice. I’ve even seen Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes used to hawk dress shirts and ties. People are, understandably, sick of it already.

But if there’s any lasting narrative to be pulled out of this period of over a month now in quarantine, it could be just how awash we are with disinformation. The schmaltzy advertisements are one thing. When the disinformation comes from the President of the United States, it’s another. During the CTF press briefing today, the Commander-in-Chief over the entire military, nuclear weapons, etc., said the following:

President: So I asked Bill [Bryan, acting undersecretary of the Science & Technology Directorate at DHS] a question that probably some of you are thinking of…. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light…. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too….

Bill Bryan: We’ll get to the right folks who could—

President: —Right, and then I see the disinfectant, where it 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. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds—it sounds interesting to me.[3]

If you listen closely enough, you might hear a slapping noise when the national health care establishment collectively facepalms.

Interestingly, this stupifying “bleach speech” moment also offers an opportunity to understand Trump’s populist appeal as it coincides with his known germophobia and recurring concern with the purification of the body.

As political scholar Elesa Zehndorfer has noted, 80% of American voters are consistently partisan in their political loyalties: roughly 98% of the time, you can predict the partisan affiliation of a voter by examining how they view non-political, emotion-invoking images.[4] In other words, a good portion of American voters are culturally, emotionally, even viscerally invested in their chosen political party. They are so connected that they will forgive serious ethical and intellectual errors in their party leaders. Even when they are shown irrefutable proof and bound to the data “by cognitive handcuffs,” they manage, Houdini-like to free themselves from making rational conclusions that would threaten their emotional connection to their party.

And why would Trump say such and obviously strange and potentially dangerous thing from the podium? There are biographical explanations. He is a self-professed germophobe who prefers drinking water through straws and has struggled to get over his aversion to shaking hands. He is “particularly sensitive to bodily stimuli that evokes disgust,” which is also a trait that has been associated with conservatives and evangelicals who are concerned with the “right and proper” use of the body. As one scholar has noted, “conservatives are more likely than liberals to experience disgust in response to specific behaviors that violate ideals of purity.”[5]

Here, today, we have a germophobe narcissist who lacks the ability to control his speech, ruminating on the comforting idea of purifying the body through the ingestion of bleach to a population that is emotionally predisposed to believe him, despite the fact that drinking bleach is fatal. The suggestion of the bleach and the infrared light is initially shocking, but it actually fits a pattern that we have seen repeatedly.


[1] “Netflix Gets 16 Million New Sign-Ups Thanks to Lockdown.” BBC News, April 21, 2020, sec. Business.


[2] Khan, Imad. “Why Animal Crossing Is the Game for the Coronavirus Moment.” The New York Times, April 7, 2020, sec. Arts.


[3] The White House, “Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing,” The White House, April 23, 2020,

[4] Elesa Zehndorfer, Evolution, Politics and Charisma: Why Do Populists Win? (Routledge, 2019).

[5] Yoel Inbar et al., “Disgust Sensitivity Predicts Intuitive Disapproval of Gays,” Emotion 9, no. 3 (2009): 435–39,

Read more

Map of cases alongside Trump quotes

jrsherrod (username). “COVID-19 US Timeline: Trump’s Narrative alongside Cases and Deaths by County [Updated][OC] : Dataisbeautiful.” reddit, April 23, 2020.

The “Bleach Speech”
NBC New York. President Trump Suggests ‘Injecting’ Disinfectant as Coronavirus Cure | NBC New York, 2020.
MSNBC. Use Of Drug Boosted By Trump, Fox News Not Borne Out By Science | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC, 2020.
Every COVID Commercial is Exactly the Same. Watch below.
Microsoft Sam. Every Covid-19 Commercial Is Exactly the Same, 2020.
Cottonelle. #ShareASquare – Cottonelle® Brand, 2020.
IKEA España. Your House Has Something to Tell You – Anuncio IKEA, 2020.
Guinness. A St. Patrick’s Day Message From Guinness | Guinness Beer, 2020.

*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

Adams, Peter. “Mastercard’s CMO on Sustaining Brand-Building — Including Sonic Marketing — amid Coronavirus.” Marketing Dive, April 23, 2020.
Atkinson, Claire. “Gilead Stock Falls after Disappointing Early Trial Results for Highly Anticipated Coronavirus Treatment.” NBC News, April 23, 2020.
Lewis, John, Benjamin Seel, and Nitin Shah. “L.M.-M. v. Cuccinelli: Trump’s Preference for Acting Officials Hits A Wall.” Lawfare, April 23, 2020.
Lipstein, Rachel. “The Rise of the Quarantine Beard.” The New Yorker, April 23, 2020.
Marshall, Aarian. “Farmers Are Dumping Milk, Even as People Go Hungry. Here’s Why.” Wired, April 23, 2020.
Padron-Regalado, Eriko. “Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2: Lessons from Other Coronavirus Strains.” Infectious Diseases and Therapy, April 23, 2020, 1–20.
Plumer, Brad, and Nadja Popovich. “Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus.” The New York Times, March 22, 2020.
Silverman, Ed, Adam Feuerstein, and Matthew Herper. “Data on Gilead’s Remdesivir Show No Benefit for Coronavirus Patients.” STAT, April 23, 2020.
The White House. “Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing.” The White House, April 23, 2020.
Social Media
Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.