Hot Air

CNNs reporting blows up their own fact checker on virus test kits

During last Sunday’s Democratic primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden made a number of claims that were questionable, to say the least. But one of them that really stood out was his assertion that part of the cause of our current struggles with the coronavirus outbreak was the White House’s failure to accept testing kits from the World Health Organization (WHO). He said, “Look, the World Health Organization offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now. We refused them. We did not want to buy them. We did not want to get them from them. We wanted to make sure we had our own.”

As the Free Beacon reports, that claim is a bunch of malarky (as Joe Biden himself might say). Despite their own fact-checker initially saying that Biden was correct, CNN later reported that the CDC and the WHO had never discussed our getting testing kits from them and they never offered any.

A new CNN report refutes its own correspondent’s approving fact check of Joe Biden’s claim the Trump administration “refused” the World Health Organization’s offer of coronavirus testing kits.

CNN fact-checker Holmes Lybrand rated Biden’s statement at Sunday’s Democratic primary debate to be correct at the time. But CNN reported Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO never discussed the latter providing tests to the United States, and WHO did not offer it tests.

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told CNN this was not unusual, since the United States has the capacity to manufacture its own diagnostics. The CDC developed its own version of the coronavirus test on Jan. 17, the same day WHO published a German protocol for countries to use in manufacturing their own tests.

CNN’s fact-checker initially judged Biden’s statement to be correct. (That page has now been changed to reflect the actual facts with the edit noted at the bottom of the page, but that only happened in the past 24 hours.) On the same day (Monday), PolitiFact rated Biden’s claim as “mostly false.”

Actually, “Pants on Fire” would have been a more accurate rating. Two different officials from the WHO were asked about it this week and they both agreed that the United States “does not ordinarily rely on WHO for reagents or diagnostic tests because of sufficient domestic capacity.” There’s no question that we’ve been behind the curve in terms of getting testing kits into mass production, but it would have been totally out of character for us to go to the WHO to ask for them initially. How CNN’s fact-checker managed to get that so wrong – and leave the incorrect information up on their website until yesterday – while their own reporters were covering the correct version of the story remains something of a mystery. The reality is that the reporting on Biden’s claim was, dare we say… fake news.

Sadly, that doesn’t really do anything about the underlying problem. Everyone watching that debate on Sunday night heard the presumptive Democratic nominee say that Trump had turned down a WHO offer of badly needed testing kits. Anyone curious enough to bother checking it the next day who went to CNN for their information had their initial belief verified for them. And by now, particularly with all of the other coronavirus headlines swamping the news cycle, Biden’s claim has fallen down the memory hole and become part of the alternate reality that’s being repeated on social media.

Yes, it’s good that CNN’s fact-checker finally corrected their analysis, but that article dropped off of CNN’s front page days ago. You wouldn’t find it today unless you were specifically searching for it or following a link from a conservative website like ours or the Free Beacon. So in reality, the damage has been done and you just don’t end up unringing that bell.

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