PolitiFact 2020 Lie of the Year: COVID-19 threat denial and downplaying takes top ranking

The decision has been made – the 2020 Lie of the Year is coronavirus downplay and denial. Well, we knew it would either be the coronavirus or the presidential election, right? Those were the two big stories of 2020 and they both have carried into 2021. PolitiFact calls it an infodemic led by misinformation spread by President Trump and “bad actors” who offered up junk science.

I’ll just say at the beginning here that I don’t pay much attention to PolitiFact because it is so slanted to favor the political left on just about every subject. The Lie of the Year story is just a marker, really, of a big news story for any given year. One of the most memorable choices was in 2013 when it chose Barack Obama’s whoppers about Obamacare. Specifically, that year’s Lie of the Year was “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” It was a lie then as it is a lie now.

The story of the coronavirus is a bit different, though. It’s true that originally the communication from the White House was not great. At the time, though, no one really had a grasp as to what we were facing or what was to come. Trump can be criticized for his verbal communication at the beginning but not his actions. When the threat started becoming clear, Trump banned air travel from China and formed a White House coronavirus task force by the end of January 2020. He then banned air travel from Europe and closed the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Even with those early precautions, the coronavirus spread rapidly, first in Washington State and then on the East Coast in the New York and New Jersey area. I remember very early stories of a group of teachers and education specialists who took a trip to China and came back infected to my own city. The virus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly, even with precautions. PolitiFact blames Trump and coronavirus skeptics for the spread of misinformation.

President Donald J. Trump fueled confusion and conspiracies from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. He embraced theories that COVID-19 accounted for only a small fraction of the thousands upon thousands of deaths. He undermined public health guidance for wearing masks and cast Dr. Anthony Fauci as an unreliable flip-flopper.

Anonymous bad actors offered up junk science. Online skeptics made bogus accusations that hospitals padded their coronavirus case numbers to generate bonus payments. Influential TV and radio opinion hosts told millions of viewers that social distancing was a joke and that states had all of the personal protective equipment they needed (when they didn’t).

It was a symphony of counter narrative, and Trump was the conductor, if not the composer. The message: The threat to your health was overhyped to hurt the political fortunes of the president.

What PolitiFact fails to do is give credit where credit is due. Senator Tom Cotton was way out in front of the health threat coming out of China and spread the word of its origin in Wuhan. He was mocked and scornfully criticized by Democrats and the liberal media for xenophobic fearmongering. He wanted the Communist China government to be held accountable for unleashing the virus on the world. In the beginning, he was largely ignored as an alarmist delivering a conspiracy theory.

President Trump did downplay some of the seriousness of the coronavirus in the beginning. He continued to do so into the Spring months. In an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, he admitted he downplayed the virus. He did so to keep Americans as calm as possible. He was keeping an eye on the economic devastation that he knew would be coming in order to combat the disease. Trump made some odd statements that were construed to be endorsements of rogue treatment ideas. The media went nuts every time he held a press conference with the science and medical experts over one cherry-picked statement after another. He finally gave up and stopped showing up for them. From the beginning, Trump was the TDS deranged media’s whipping boy.

Frankly, most of the medical professionals and the science community haven’t covered themselves in glory, either. Dr. Fauci, for example, has flip-flopped on coronavirus mitigation advice. He’s been caught most recently with intentionally lying to the American public about the level of vaccinations necessary to achieve herd immunity among the general public. Fauci excuses his lies as noble ones but he is still lying. The face mask still rages on as it has from the beginning. First, we were told to not bother with face masks, just let the medical professionals and first responders purchase and use them. Then we were told to use them to protect others and to protect ourselves. Businesses were shut down and the national economy collapsed. Most people have been under some level of lockdown orders since March yet the virus still spikes across the country.

Pointing the finger at one man for the deaths and destruction of the coronavirus is wrong-headed and insincere. Democrats and the Trump deranged among us literally blame Trump for the deaths of those who contract the virus. Americans are on edge, coronavirus fatigued and angry. The media and others have fueled the flame, particularly in the weeks before the presidential election. Trump was on the path to easy re-election until the economy collapsed and the coronavirus spread further across the country. Joe Biden made Trump’s response to the virus a campaign issue, as did other Democrats. Biden, by the way, has a dismal record of handling a pandemic during his time in office. His former pandemic czar admitted their failures in handling Eboli and H1N1. He said the Obama/Biden administration just gave up.

Biden’s plan to deal with the coronavirus is the same as that of the Trump administration. There is little else that can be done. Working on making the delivery of vaccines and administering them to everyone more efficient is all that is left to be done. PolitiFact didn’t bother to note that the man who they blame for the devastation of the coronavirus in America is the man who oversaw Operation Warp Speed and coordinated the most successful private-public partnership in recent history. In less than a year, more than one vaccine has been developed, tested and approved for use. That is a historic accomplishment that even PolitiFact can’t take away.