Politifact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ Indicts Trump and Right Wing Media For Covid-19 Misinformation


Jim Watson/Getty Images

Politifact unveiled its annual “lie of the year” on Thursday. It was a predictable, but serious one: Coronavirus downplay and denial.

President Donald Trump was identified as the top purveyor of “confusion and conspiracies” throughout the pandemic, with Politifact noting he “embraced theories that COVID-19 accounted for only a small fraction of the thousands upon thousands of deaths” and “undermined public health guidance for wearing masks and cast Dr. Anthony Fauci as an unreliable flip-flopper.”

Of course, as Politifact pointed out, Trump infamously told Bob Woodward that he was deliberately misleading the public about the danger of the pandemic so as to not cause a panic.

“To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump said, perhaps as an explanation of his repeated claims that Covid-19 is not dangerous.

“But the infodemic was not the work of a single person,” Politifact wrote. The outlet laid out the top voices fueling Covid-19 denial, which included Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, The Gateway Pundit, Todd Starnes, Breitbart and more.

Limbaugh, the enormously popular talk radio host, has repeatedly downplayed Covid-19.

“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Limbaugh claimed in February. “I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus… The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

It should be noted that Tucker Carlson famously travelled to Mar-a-Lago in February to make a personal appeal to Trump to take the coronavirus seriously. Since then, his coverage of the crisis has focused more on the cost of lockdown measures and criticism public health experts than the toll of the virus itself. Politifact’s inclusion of the Fox News host was thanks to an October segment in which he dismissed the effectiveness of masks.

The outlet noted that the blizzard of lies in the wake of the 2020 election — i.e. Trump and his allies’ claims the election was stolen from him through election fraud — “qualify as historic and dangerously bald-faced.”

As dangerous as those false claims are, however, they are hardly deadly. Misinformation regarding the coronavirus, like misinformation spread during any pandemic, costs lives.

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under:

Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor of Mediaite. Send tips via email: aidan@mediaite.com. Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin