President Donald Trump on Friday played down a furore over his suggestion that people could try injecting disinfectants to fight the novel coronavirus, claiming he was being sarcastic.
"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen," he told journalists at the White House.
During a press conference late on Thursday, Trump turned to government scientists in the room and asked them about the role of disinfectants in killing the coronavirus.
"It knocks (the virus) out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs," he said.
Trump now says he was talking to a journalist, putting "a sarcastic question to a reporter".
In fact, he was talking directly to a Department of Homeland Security official in the briefing room, Bill Bryan. Sitting alongside Bryan was top White House coronavirus medical advisor Dr Deborah Birx.
Trump often spars with journalists at his daily briefings and he did again on Thursday, calling two of them "fake". He also repeated his regular complaints that the media does not treat him fairly and plays down his accomplishments.
However, when discussing the injections, Trump had not even reached the question-and-answer stage of his briefing and the whole discussion was between him and other officials.
The comment about the disinfectants caused widespread confusion and alarm on Friday.
The parent group of popular household product Lysol said in a statement that "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)".
The White House spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, said the media had taken "President Trump out of context", but did not say he was being sarcastic.