Donald Trump cut off his daily coronavirus briefing without taking questions after a day of mockery over his suggestion disinfectant could cure coronavirus.
The US president was angry on Friday after a day of punishing headlines in relation to his remarks.
The briefings often stretch well beyond an hour and feature combative exchanges between Mr Trump and reporters.
Mr Trump did answer questions from reporters earlier on Friday and claimed that his suggestion about disinfectant had been “sarcastic”.
His words came just hours after he was widely criticised for holding up disinfectant and “(ultraviolet) light inside the body” as possible solutions to the coronavirus crisis.
He had said about disinfectant: “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…”
Among the critics were doctors, who said the idea was “irresponsible” and “dangerous”, and companies that produce disinfectant, such as Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser, which said that “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)”.
But speaking on Friday, Mr Trump said to reporters: “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.
“Now, disinfectant when doing this (making a hand-washing gesture), maybe on the hands, would work and I was asking the question of the gentleman who was there yesterday – Bill (Bill Bryan, head of science and tech directorate at US Department of Homeland Security’s bio-defence laboratories) – because when they say that something will last three or four hours or six hours but if the sun is out or if they use disinfectant it goes away in less than a minute – did you hear about this yesterday?
“I was asking a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside but it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in a form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.”
Many of his country’s citizens, however, might not have been amused by his sense of humour, as the death toll from the virus topped 50,000 in the US, having doubled in 10 days, according to a tally by news agency Reuters.
The number of confirmed cases in the US has passed 880,000.
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The White House had earlier said Mr Trump’s initial disinfectant comments had been taken “out of context and run with negative headlines”.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that the president had “repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment”.
The president was already facing criticism for championing the old anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19, which has been shown to provide no benefit and possibly a higher risk of death.
The Food and Drug Administration in the US on Friday also warned people against the drug because of possible heart complications.