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White House physician sows confusion with briefings

With President Donald Trump battling coronavirus at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, White House doctor Sean Conley has come under fire for making confusing and misleading comments — including one he later walked back — about the President’s condition.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


© Susan Walsh/AP
Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

After Saturday’s televised briefing at Walter Reed, a White House official offered a more alarming assessment of Trump’s health to reporters. That reporting was initially given to a pool of reporters attributed to an official familiar with the President’s condition. Later, the Associated Press and the New York Times identified that official as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Conley claimed at Sunday’s briefing that Meadows’ widely reported statement contradicting him was “misconstrued.”

“The chief and I work side by side,” Conley said. “And I think his statement was misconstrued. What he meant was that 24 hours ago, when he and I were checking on the President, that there was that momentary episode of the high fever and that temporary drop in the saturation, which prompted us to act expediently to move him up here.”

Conley added, “Fortunately, that was really a very transient limited episode, a couple hours later he was back up. Mild again. You know, we, I’m not going to speculate what that limited episode was about so early in the course but he’s doing well.”

Video: Doctor releases letter on Trump’s condition (CNN)

Doctor releases letter on Trump’s condition

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Conley on Sunday also defended the decision to not disclose that the President was administered oxygen by saying he wanted to “reflect the upbeat attitude of the team.”

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, his course of illness has had. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something,” Conley said, adding that “wasn’t necessarily true.”

“The fact of the matter is he’s doing very well,” Conley went on.

Conley, who took over as Trump’s White House physician in March 2018, holds a degree in osteopathic medicine, one of the two degrees in the United States in which physicians can practice medicine — either as a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine. About a quarter of US medical students train at osteopathic medical schools, according to the American Medical Association. Historically, doctor of osteopathic medicine programs have touted their methods as “more holistic.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from University of Notre Dame, Conley graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. He then served in various military posts, primarily at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He was the senior medical officer at

Trump tests positive:White House sows confusion about Trump’s condition as source tells reporters next 48 hours will be critical

An attempt by President Donald Trump’s doctor to reassure the public about Trump’s condition following his infection with Covid-19 only created widespread confusion and concerns about transparency on Saturday, as a source familiar with the President’s health told reporters that the next 48 hours will be critical in determining how he fares.



a tall building in a city: A view of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. - President Donald Trump will spend the coming days in a military hospital just outside Washington to undergo treatment for the coronavirus, but will continue to work, the White House said October 2nd.


© BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A view of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. – President Donald Trump will spend the coming days in a military hospital just outside Washington to undergo treatment for the coronavirus, but will continue to work, the White House said October 2nd.

“The President’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the source told White House pool reporters after the briefing from his doctors.

Moments earlier on Saturday morning, the President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, had offered an upbeat assessment of the President’s condition stating that he was feeling well, that he had been “fever-free” for 24 hours and that his symptoms — which included an “extremely mild cough,” nasal congestion and fatigue — “are resolving and improving.” Conley was evasive about when and if Trump had received supplemental oxygen, saying, “He is not on oxygen.”



a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Staff and visitors listen as President Donald J. Trump speaks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett during a ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday, Sept 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Staff and visitors listen as President Donald J. Trump speaks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett during a ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday, Sept 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

But a source close to the White House said Trump has received supplemental oxygen since his illness began. Trump “definitely has had oxygen,” the source said, adding that it was on Friday.

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The New York Times first reported the oxygen development. CNN reported on Friday the President was having a hard time breathing.

The rosy briefing from doctors, which contradicts other information emerging about the President’s condition, came the morning after Trump was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a move that plunged the country into a deepening crisis as the circle of current and former aides to the President testing positive rapidly widened.

Conley said during the briefing — which occurred shortly before noon Saturday at Walter Reed — that the President was diagnosed with the coronavirus 72 hours earlier. He later released a statement midday on Saturday saying that he misspoke during the briefing and meant to say it was “Day Three” of Trump’s diagnosis — and that the President was diagnosed Thursday night.

Trump revealed his diagnosis around 1 a.m. ET Friday on Twitter.

Conley offered scant and insufficient details about the President’s vital signs. He acknowledged that the President had a fever at one point, but refused to say what it was. A