The Arizona woman who said that she and her 68-year-old husband ingested a substance used to clean fish tanks after hearing President Donald Trump tout chloroquine as a cure for the coronavirus has given thousands of dollars to Democratic groups and candidates over the last two years.
The woman's most recent donations, in late February, were to a Democratic PAC, the 314 Action Fund, that bills itself as the "pro-science resistance" and has vocally criticized the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic and held up her case to slam the White House.
Although local and national media outlets withheld the couple's names, the Washington Free Beacon established their identities through descriptions in local news reports, where the pair were identified by their first names and ages: Gary, 68, and Wanda, 61. The Free Beacon is withholding their identities at Wanda's request.
Federal Election Commission records show that Wanda has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic electoral groups and candidates over the past two years, including Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and EMILY's List, a group that aims to elect pro-choice female candidates.
Wanda told the Free Beacon that she and her husband were both Democrats, not Trump supporters. They heard about the potential benefits of chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, in news reports. She decided at the "spur of the moment" to try taking it, but reached for a fish tank cleaner in her pantry that contains chloroquine phosphate, a different and deadly form of the chemical. The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for the use of chloroquine to treat coronavirus on Sunday.
"We weren't big supporters of [Trump], but we did see that they were using it in China and stuff," Wanda told the Free Beacon. "And we just made a horrible, tragic mistake," she said. "It was stupid, and it was horrible, and we should have never done it. But it's done and now I've lost my husband. And my whole life was my husband."
"We didn't think it would kill us," she added. "We thought if anything it would help us 'cus that's what we've been hearing on the news."
In her first national news interview, Wanda told NBC News that she took the fish tank cleaner in a tragically botched attempt to follow medical advice that Trump had relayed in a press conference earlier that week.
"We saw Trump on TV—every channel—and all of his buddies and that this was safe," she said last Monday. "Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure."
During a press briefing on March 19, the president pointed to medical studies indicating that chloroquine, a medication used to treat malaria, may be a "game changer" in treating the coronavirus. Wanda warned others in the same NBC News interview not to "believe anything that the president says."
Wanda's most recent contributions to Democratic causes came on Feb. 26 and 28. They went to the 314 Action Fund, a Democratic political action committee that describes itself as "the largest pro-science advocacy organization committed to electing scientists" and aims to "promote the responsible use of data driven fact based approaches in public policy."
The group has been highly critical of Trump's coronavirus policies in recent weeks. In fact, on its Facebook page, the group slammed the Trump administration for the couple's actions, writing, "There are real consequences to the White House throwing its approval behind an experimental drug trial before it's time."
In the wake of the incident, media outlets tacitly blamed Trump for the tragedy. The New York Times noted that chloroquine "has been bandied about by President Trump during White House briefings on the coronavirus pandemic as a potential 'game changer' in the treatment of Covid-19." Others, like Axios, ran corrections noting that the couple had not ingested the chloroquine in its medical form but rather the form "used in aquariums" after initially reporting that the couple had followed the president's faulty medical advice.
Wanda does not appear to have a long history of political donations, according to FEC reports. Her contributions to Democrats rose sharply over the past few years. Her first recorded political donation was $150 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to FEC records. The next year she gave $550 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Since 2018, she has contributed approximately $6,000 to Democratic electoral groups.
She said she and her husband had decided to stay in their home to avoid catching the virus. They were spending much of their time watching media coverage.
"We were watching the news because we were self-isolating and getting pretty nervous. We were scared. I'm still scared," Wanda told the Free Beacon.
She said she and her husband are not active on social media and don't read much online news, but they get a lot of their information from television.
"I didn't know, and I didn't understand how serious it was," she added. "It was the worst situation I could ever, ever, ever imagine anybody being in."
Wanda told NBC News that her experience was a cautionary tale about taking the president's words at face value. "Oh my God, don't take anything. Don't believe anything that the president says and his people," she said. She told a local news outlet that she was still "pretty much in shock" over her husband's death.
"We were just having the best day before this happened. I made him his favorite lunch, grilled steak and asparagus and red potatoes, and we were just having the best Sunday," she said.
Published under: Coronavirus , Wanda Lenius