WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday night in his first televised interview since he learned he had COVID-19 that he was “medication free” and he claimed to be back to normal, a week after being hospitalized after having trouble breathing.
In the interview, on Fox News, Trump claimed that he went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Friday because he “didn’t feel strong.” But the president denied that he had experienced any trouble breathing, despite multiple people close to the White House saying in interviews that he had, in fact, had trouble breathing and that his blood oxygen level had dropped below 94%, which is a cutoff for severe disease. Doctors had given him supplemental oxygen at the White House before his transfer to the hospital.
Trump said in the interview, with Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor, that he did not know the results of his most recent coronavirus test, which he said was done earlier Friday, and he said he was being tested every few days. A White House official said the segment had been taped Friday; it aired during “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
The interview was the latest stop on the president’s media tour — he also appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show for two hours earlier in the day — as he tries to regain momentum in the final stretch of the campaign and prove to his supporters that despite his positive diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization, he is back to normal.
“I think — didn’t feel strong,” the president told Siegel of his symptoms. “I didn’t have a problem with breathing, which a lot of people seemed to have. I had none of that. I didn’t feel very strong. I didn’t feel very vital. I didn’t feel like the president of the U.S. should feel.”
Trump repeated his claim that he wanted to give all Americans with COVID-19 an experimental antibody combination from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which he credits with his quick recovery, for free. He did not explain how he would do that as the drugmaker does not yet have government approval.
“You would have sort of a sore throat, just to add to to what we were saying, but I felt really very, very good after taking this for a period of time,” he said. “It’s a transfusion, not a shot. I’d like to send it to everybody.”
Regeneron’s treatment is a combination of two powerful antibodies that are believed to boost the immune response to the virus.
In the second half of the interview, Trump said that there had been congestion in his lungs, and he lauded the CT scans he received at Walter Reed, which he called “amazing.”
“The equipment was incredible,” he said.
He also claimed that while he did not yet have the results from his Friday coronavirus test, he seemed to be “either at the bottom of the scale or free” of the virus.
Of the steroid he had taken, dexamethasone, the president said that he had “tolerated it very well” and that it had reduced any swelling in his lungs, but that he had not experienced any side effects.
When asked where he thought he had contracted the virus, Trump took no responsibility for the Rose Garden celebration he hosted and headlined two weeks ago to announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the gathering, where Trump officials and Republican lawmakers did not socially distance or wear masks, qualified as a “superspreader event.”
“They had some big events at the White House,” Trump said. “Perhaps there.” He added, “That’s one thing you learn, this is a contagious disease.”
It was not clear exactly when the interview had been taped, but Trump said in it that he had been “medication free” for eight hours. Later, though, when asked what medications he was on, the president was vaguer. “We pretty much finished, and now we’ll see how things go — but pretty much nothing,” he said. Siegel did not press him for more information.
On Friday, the White House declined to say whether Trump had been tested for the coronavirus, and the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, did not release a letter about the president’s health, as he had done earlier in the week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.