The Associated Press “Fact Check” team obsessively challenges the statements of President Trump, almost to the exclusion of other people in national politics. But are they checking facts, or opinions?
On Saturday, AP reporters Hope Yen, Calvin Woodward, and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar wrote “On and off social media, Trump stretched the facts or shredded them as he tried to make the best of a U.S. death toll surpassing 100,000 from the coronavirus” and other issues. Take their coronavirus verdict:
TRUMP: “For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number.” — tweet Tuesday, before the toll of known deaths passed 100,000.
THE FACTS: This opinion comes from his ego, not science, and evades the fact that the U.S. has experienced far more known sickness and death from COVID-19 than any other country. Well-documented failures in U.S. testing and gaps in containment in the crucial early weeks contributed to the severity of the crisis.
Boasting about how the coronavirus death rate could have been so much higher is a matter of speculation, not facts! So why is a “Fact Check” even dealing this tweet? AP grants this is an “opinion,” not a fact.
And then, as we’ve stated on this site repeatedly, while the United States has the highest death toll, it’s not the highest per capita. The New York Times interactive map today says the U.S.has 103,775 deaths, which is one death per 3,153 people. That’s a lower rate than Belgium (1 per 1,207), Spain (1 per 1,723), and Italy (1 per 1,813).
Team AP acknowledges that Trump’s 2 million number is a real guesstimate by scientists, and then insisted it was factually flawed to use this number, since doing nothing was never an option:
Early in the U.S. outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the death toll could have reached or exceeded 2 million if no steps had been taken to contain the disease. That is to say, if public health authorities, governors, mayors, the president and the public did nothing.
A do-nothing course was never an option and federal officials never forecast such an outlier death toll. Trump’s tweets overlook the fact that the U.S. response — its weaknesses and strengths — was never all about him.
This is a little amusing, since AP thinks their “Fact Checks” are almost all about him. Before the checking began, this trio complained that Trump was fighting with Twitter, suggesting they should be gagging him on that platform: “in the same week that Twitter gave Trump a pass on his baseless innuendo about a broadcaster [Joe Scarborough], the organization was left juggling fraught questions about freedom of expression and when and how to gag a president.”
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