President Donald Trump's car ride around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is being treated for having the coronavirus, drew intense criticism and raised serious questions about the conduct of himself and his staff.
The 74-year-old was hospitalized Friday after an early morning tweet announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19. From the get-go, social media lit up with conspiracy theories about whether he was really sick and controversy over how his aides handled releasing information to the public.
The latest uproar follows Trump's Sunday ride around the hospital, where he waved to supporters from behind a mask, escorted by two Secret Service agents.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweeted Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed and a doctor at George Washington University. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity."
The president had wanted to be released from the military hospital, The New York Times reported, but settled for a compromise of being allowed to travel in a short car ride around the facility.
“He’s not even pretending to care now,” The Washington Post quoted a Secret Service agent who the paper said was speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Questions were also raised about photographs released by the White House over the weekend showing the president sitting at a desk in what was identified as Walter Reed's presidential suite.
According to media reports, the photographs apparently were taken minutes apart, based on meta data timestamps, and it appeared Trump was signing a blank piece of paper.
Trump's brief public appearance followed confusing releases by White House officials and his doctors about the president's health.
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley declined to answer journalist's questions about lung scans performed on Trump just weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows contradicted Conley's optimistic characterization of Trump's health by telling pool reporters there were serious concerns about the president's well being before he was transferred by helicopter Friday to Walter Reed.
Meadows' later remarks over the weekend were decidedly upbeat, though he was photographed outside the hospital sitting with his head in his hands.