“When I asked public health experts how the United States had reached 200,000 coronavirus deaths, several of them cited the misinformation coming from the White House and President Donald Trump himself.
The president has questioned the efficacy of masks, hyped unproven treatments, and continues to promise a vaccine before experts and the drug companies themselves believe it will actually be ready. That lack of clear and accurate communication has now extended to Trump’s own Covid-19 diagnosis, with his doctors seemingly obfuscating the details of the president’s condition. They have outright acknowledged downplaying the seriousness of his symptoms, and the treatment Trump is receiving does not entirely comport with the sunny prognosis advanced by the White House.
The effect of all of these communications failures is diffuse and uncertain. But we do know this much, according to new Cornell University research: The president of the United States was the loudest megaphone for Covid-19 misinformation during the first few months of the pandemic.
The researchers examined more than 1.1 million English-language articles published between January 1 and May 26 in traditional media outlets (retrieved through LexisNexis) that included some Covid-19 misinformation. They represented about 3 percent of the 38 million total articles published about the pandemic in that time.
Of those million-plus articles with misinformation, about 38 percent of them featured Donald Trump and some specific kind of misleading claim of which the president is fond, or a general reference to his penchant for spreading false information.
Trump’s influence is not just reflected in the amount of misleading information, but also the content of it — even if he wasn’t directly the source. Of the various types of misinformation identified by the Cornell study, “miracle cures” are by far the most common. The president has touted, without evidence, the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and said he’d taken a course himself.”
“In an unprecedented health care emergency, Americans needed clear and accurate information from their federal government. Instead, President Trump has sowed discord and doubt and disinformation, making it harder for the country to contain Covid-19.”