President Donald Trump vigorously defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus on Tuesday, but it was a series of questions from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins about Dr. Stella Immanuel, a little-known Houston-based physician featured in a video the President retweeted, that caused him to abruptly end his press briefing.
“Mr. President, the woman that you said is a great doctor in that video that you retweeted last night said masks don’t work and there is a cure for Covid-19, both of which health experts say is not true. She’s also made videos saying that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens, and that they’re trying to create a vaccine to make you immune from becoming religious,” Collins asked.
The CNN reporter went on to press Trump: “It’s misinformation.”
“I don’t know which country she comes from, but she said that she’s had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients,” Trump said. “And I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.”
When Collins asked a follow-up question about Immanuel’s dismissal of wearing face masks – which Trump himself advocated last week – the President walked away from the podium, though on Wednesday he continued to say he was “very impressed” by Immanuel.
Although Trump has frequently spread false and misleading information over the course of the pandemic – while downplaying advice issued by the government’s top medical experts – his decision to amplify Immanuel raises fresh questions about the administration’s messaging and pandemic response. It also gives her ideas a significant platform and risks lending credibility to someone who has made a number of dangerous claims in the past.
On her website and in sermons posted on YouTube, Immanuel – who practices medicine at Rehoboth Medical Center, a clinic in Houston, and is the founder of the Fire Power Ministries church – has, among other things, claimed that sex with “tormenting spirits” is responsible for gynecological problems, miscarriages and impotence.
“Many women suffer from astral sex regularly. Astral sex is the ability to project one’s spirit man into the victim’s body and have intercourse with it,” she once claimed in a sermon. Immanuel has not responded to CNN’s efforts to contact her for comment.
The Daily Beast also said that Immanuel has suggested in previous sermons that alien DNA was used in medical treatments and that scientists are plotting to develop a “vaccine” to make it impossible to become religious. The Daily Beast reported on her remarks on Tuesday, and, according to Immanuel, did a “great job summarizing our deliverance ministry and exposing incubus and succubus.”
Immanuel received her medical degree from a university in Nigeria in 1990, according to the Texas Medical Board database. On her Facebook page, Immanuel says she was born in Cameroon and describes herself as “God’s battle axe and weapon of war.”
In the video, which was livestreamed by the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News and shared by Trump on Monday, Immanuel makes claims about coronavirus that run counter to multiple studies and advice from public health officials, including the Trump administration’s own health experts. Breitbart did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
“This virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” Immanuel says, despite several high-quality studies that show the anti-malarial drug alone or in combination with others does not help Covid-19 patients.
She goes on to say, “I know people want to talk about a mask. Hello, you don’t need masks, there is a cure.”
The video featured Immanuel among a group of people wearing white lab coats who call themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” staging a press conference, organized by the Tea Party Patriots, in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
The video was removed from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter after amassing millions of views and thousands of shares.
While she has alleged that face masks are unnecessary, Immanuel appears to be wearing an N95 mask in a video shared on her clinic’s Facebook page and encourages visitors to the clinic seeking treatment to wear face coverings.
CNN’s Jon Passantino and Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.