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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

The White House Coronavirus Briefings


FactCheck.org Managing Editor Lori Robertson spoke with WHYY radio in Philadelphia about fact-checking the White House’s daily coronavirus task force briefings.

She was a guest on WHYY’s “Radio Times” on April 15 for a discussion on fact-checking and the challenge  for the media in covering these briefings live, along with Mark Lukasiewicz, a former senior executive at NBC News and ABC News.

Robertson discussed several recent FactCheck.org articles debunking claims President Donald Trump had made in these briefings. For instance, constitutional experts say Trump was wrong that he, not governors, had the power to “open up the states” where businesses were closed or residents were ordered to stay at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president also made false statements about the drug hydroxychloroquine. Trump claimed “studies” had suggested there are few novel coronavirus cases in “malaria countries” because of the use of hydroxychloroquine as an antimalarial drug. But FactCheck.org found no such studies exist, and the drug is not widely used for malaria in much of the world. Similarly, he falsely claimed “people with lupus,” who also take hydroxychloroquine to treat symptoms of their disease, “aren’t catching this horrible virus.” In fact, people with lupus have reported contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Robertson also discussed why FactCheck.org doesn’t use the word “lie” to label political falsehoods. A “lie” describes an intention to deceive, and we can’t prove someone’s intent. We don’t know whether a politician was mistaken or believed he or she was correct, for instance.

The full interview is available on WHYY’s website and Apple podcast.