CNN Tries To Fact Check Trump on COVID-19 Testing, Ends Up Falling Flat on Its Face


CNN really has a bone to pick with President Trump over COVID-19 testing.

On Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States had done more testing than any nation, including South Korea, CNN attempted to throw some fact-checking cold water on that assertion.

“Fact check: President Trump says the US had done more coronavirus testing than any other nation,” the outlet tweeted.

“While the US has overtaken South Korea in total numbers of coronavirus tests administered, it has conducted far fewer tests per capita.”

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That’s not really a fact check inasmuch as the fact was correct — which, if you’ll notice, they admitted. CNN just thought it was incorrectly contextualized.

But, you, viewer at home, it seems you didn’t get the message. You didn’t understand just how this fact affected your life or just how mendacious President Trump was.

Thus on Friday did CNN decide to fact check the same fact in real-time during the president’s daily coronavirus briefing. Except now, not only was the president presenting facts with context that CNN thought was lacking, the fact itself was incorrect.

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Here was how Trump presented it on Friday: “My administration is actively planning the next phase in an all-out war against this virus. We’re now testing nearly 100,000 patients per day, more than anybody in the world,” the president said, according to Fox News.

“And we have now tested, even as of a couple of weeks ago, tested more than any other country in the world. And our capacity continues to grow.”

CNN White House correspondent Kate Bennett thought it was “very important for people to see and understand” why Trump was wrong on this.

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Yes, dear viewer, apparently you haven’t properly understood this. Let Kate Bennett and CNN clarify that Trump is incorrectly stating that the United States is doing more testing per capita than any other country in the world — except for the slight problem that those words never came from his mouth.

See what he said above — the words “per capita” were never used. That’s very important to hear and understand.

Now, if CNN wants to take issue with the fact that Trump is not using those two words, that’s fine. However, as Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner pointed out, if that is decontextualization, it’s literally the same decontextualization that CNN is doing:

“But it is literally true that the U.S. has tested more than any country,” Dunleavy wrote. “Trump didn’t say that the United States has tested more than anyone on a per capita basis. You are fact-checking something he didn’t even claim. BTW, this is something Dr. Deborah Birx has also said too.

“If Trump lied when he said the U.S. has conducted the most tests since we haven’t done the most on a per capita basis, then by that logic CNN lied when they said the U.S. has the most coronavirus cases, since others have more on a per capita basis. Should CNN fact-check itself?”

The images say it all: Bennett’s condescending tweet split-screened with CNN saying the United States has the most coronavirus cases in the world — not most per capita, just the most, like Trump said.

Again, accurate, but per capita, we’re well behind countries like Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Portugal and Ireland.

If you think that factoid is going to stop appearing on CNN — either when Trump is involved or when they’re reminding you how profoundly timorous you need to remain in the face of COVID-19 — your familiarity with CNN is lacking. Not that this something you need to remedy, I’m just sayin’.

Trump campaign rapid response director Andrew Clark also pilloried CNN’s fact-checking.

“President Trump said the U.S. has tested more than any other country in the world. That is factually CORRECT, a testament to the President’s cutting red tape to expand testing. CNN is incorrect by saying it’s incorrect.’ This chyron is a sad attempt to smear @realDonaldTrump,” Clark tweeted.

“It’s one thing to have a petty fact check chyron. It’s another to just be wrong.”

There’s nary a person watching the news who thinks America is where it needs to be on COVID-19 testing. No one watched the president’s news conference and thought to themselves: “Oh, whew! We’ve turned the corner.”

To not be aware of that fact at this juncture is to deliberately not be aware of that fact. That’s the kind of person you can’t convince of the exigencies of the moment, and ’tis best to leave them to their Infowars and respective tinfoil haberdasheries.

However, the reason Trump repeated the fact was clear. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re getting there. There are lots of corners America is trying to turn right now, and this is one of them.

That’s not what CNN’s takeaway was, though — and that was deliberate. That was because there’s no consistent standard with CNN’s fact-checking.

If the president doesn’t mention that something is per capita, he’s apparently being misleading. When CNN’s doing it, it’s apparently just reporting the facts.

There’s not a person involved with this “fact check” that thought they were being factual. They’d previously admitted as much, and even then they got no small amount of pushback.

Someone within their newsroom is apparently willing to die on this hill. Don’t mind us if we don’t stick around while they do.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture