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Why Are Americans So Confused About Covid-19? Blame Trump, Cornell Study Says



Covid-19 spread from China, but much of the “infodemia” comes from the White House.

According to a new study from Cornell University, President Donald Trump is the world’s largest disseminator of coronavirus misinformation.

Almost 38 percent of the “misinformation talk” began with Trump doing things like promoting unproven “magic bullets” for Covid-19 or claiming without evidence that the pandemic was a “Democratic Party joke” aimed at derailing his presidency, from which the researchers found the Cornell Alliance for Science onwards.

Such a conversation is dangerous, said alliance director Sarah Evanega.

“We were keen to investigate this issue as the World Health Organization identified Covid misinformation it called ̵

6;infodemic’ as a serious problem in fighting the pandemic,” she said. “If people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may be less likely to follow official guidelines and run the risk of spreading the disease.”


In other coronavirus developments:

  • Cruise ships will not be allowed to sail in US waters for at least another month, the federal centers for disease control and prevention said. Since March 1, nearly 3,700 confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 have been reported to the CDC on cruise lines in the United States and at least 41 people have died, the agency said.

  • Last week, around 837,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time as the pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy continued to struggle. The unemployment rate was 4.8 percent when Trump took office in January 2017. Now it’s 8.4 percent.

  • Mississippi governor Tate Reeves announced he would not renew his mandate to wear masks, despite the fact that his state has the fourth highest rate of new infections in the country at 17.8 percent, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus research center. “We shouldn’t use the heavy hand of government any more than is warranted,” Reeves said.
  • Hospitals in parts of Wisconsin that have seen the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketing recently are running out of beds for patients. In Green Bay, where Trump is slated to hold a campaign event on Saturday, Bellin Hospital was reportedly 94 percent full. According to Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin is currently the state with the third highest rate of new infections at 21.14 percent.
  • White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Trump has no plan to cancel the Green Bay rally despite the Wisconsin governor’s urging the president to reconsider. “Yes, so the President believes that people have a first right of amendment to political speech,” McEnany said. “He’s got a rally. People can choose whether to come or not.
  • Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who has received bipartisan praise for the aggressive attack on the pandemic, reported the state had “zero new Covid-19 deaths” for the first time in 187 days.
  • A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania said Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, could resume enforcement of gathering size restrictions while appealing a previous ruling by a Trump-appointed federal judge imposing statewide crowd size restrictions and other end-of-law measures got virus from spreading.

The Cornell study published on Thursday appears to be the first comprehensive look at pandemic misinformation in the media, and the researchers reached their conclusions after using a content aggregator to analyze 38 million Covid-19 articles from English-language news agencies around the world .

They found that Trump was causing major misinformation when he spoke about using bleach to cure Covid-19 or when he advocated unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine.

Trump’s false claim about the pandemic the “deep state” triggered to establish a “new world order” has also been a major driver of misinformation. The president also advocated conspiracy theories that Covid-19 was a bio-weapon that was “intentionally or accidentally released from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.”

Much of Trump’s false Covid-19 information was given at his coronavirus press conferences, which he dropped in April after his advisors warned they would violate his election numbers. He called these briefings “very successful” while announcing high audience numbers.

Evanega said the media bore some of the blame for spreading Trump’s false Covid-19 claims.

“Accidentally or unintentionally, the media plays an important role in spreading misinformation as it amplifies the voices of celebrities even when those sources are wrong,” said Evanega.

NBC News has been fact-checking Trump since the pandemic began, including in July when the president held his first press conference on Covid-19 in months. He has consistently overstated his administration’s response to the crisis that has now killed 208,208 people in the United States and caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

There was no immediate response to the White House study, but Trump has generally dismissed criticism as “false news.”

The study was not the first time Trump was accused of spreading false pandemic information and lied to the American public about the true extent of the coronavirus crisis.

According to a recently published book, Trump was taped in February telling reporter Bob Woodward that Covid-19 was “deadly stuff,” but then further downplayed the danger in public statements and politicized the use of masks, by refusing to wear one in public for months.

Trump continues to insist that his administration did a “phenomenal job” despite the US leading the world in the number of Covid-19 deaths and infections (7,270,398), according to the latest NBC news list.


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