August 20, 2020

PolitiFact and MediaWise are teaming up to debunk misinformation about the coronavirus crisis. To have Coronavirus Facts delivered to your inbox weekly, click here.

Editor’s note: As a reader of Coronavirus Facts, you understand that 2020 has brought on a wave of misinformation that can be a matter of life, death or democracy. That’s why I’m co-teaching an online class for those 50 and older who want to learn how to fact-check like a pro. If you, or someone you know, could use a course like this, sign up for MediaWise for Seniors — Separating Fact From Fiction Online before applications close Aug. 24.

Tonight is the last night of the Democratic National Convention, and PolitiFact has been hard at work fact-checking it so far. But one COVID-19 claim stuck out: Former President Bill Clinton said the U.S. is “the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple” since the coronavirus pandemic began.

It’s Mostly True.

In his Democratic convention address, Clinton took a shot at President Donald Trump’s economic record during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the 45th president has botched his handling of the twin health and economic crises.

Using the most clear-cut, multi-nation comparison — comparing January to June 2020 — Clinton is right.

PolitiFact turned to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a think tank whose members are advanced industrialized countries. The group collects economic statistics for all its members, including unemployment rates. We chose 20 countries for which data was available, including most of the countries in Western Europe, plus Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Israel.

For consistency’s sake, we compared January to June because only two of the countries reported data for July.

As this chart shows, the United States was among the few countries to show a dramatic increase in the unemployment rate between January and June.

Click here to read the full fact-check.

Trump claims U.S. is at the top globally in COVID-19 fight

Contrary to a statement from President Trump in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, based on population, the U.S. has one of the highest death rates worldwide, and a higher rate of infection than Canada, Australia and most European countries. Read the fact-check»

This months-old image is spreading mask bad information on masks

People are using an old photo of a Fox News graphic to spread new misinformation about mask policies amid the coronavirus pandemic. The photo is outdated. The giveaway is the Nasdaq composite index listed in the bottom right-hand corner. The Nasdaq hasn’t sat at 9,415.23 since mid-June; the post claims the photo was taken in mid-August. Check it out»

Tweet claims: “DEVELOPING: Kamala’s sister takes hydroxychloroquine.”

Maya Harris, the sister of Sen. Kamala Harris, announced in April that she takes hydroxychloroquine for lupus, not COVID-19. Read more»

Conspiracy links Moderna, Gates, Epstein, Fauci and Soros

In an online conspiracy circulating on Facebook, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, billionaire investor George Soros, and financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein are all linked in the ongoing pursuit of a coronavirus vaccine. The post is filled with many accusations, none of them accurate. Read the fact-check»

“Plandemic 2” flopped. But here’s a fact-check anyway

I had most of this newsletter pre-written before what fact-checkers expected to be a big misinformation drop: The release of the sequel of the COVID-19 conspiracy documentary “Plandemic,” “Plandemic: Indoctornation.” However, Facebook and Twitter took steps to limit its spread, and in the interest of avoiding amplifying it, I’ll keep this short: The 75-minute pseudo-documentary that spins an elaborate conspiracy theory about the spread of COVID-19. It repeats several inaccurate and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic. Read more»

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is senior multimedia reporter with the MediaWise project. He most recently worked as a data journalist at the personal finance startup The Penny…
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  • PolitiFact’s creator, Bill Adair, wrote that the most important part of a fact check of a numbers claim is the underlying point.

    But this fact check from PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson identifies an underlying point (the 45th president has botched his handling of the twin health and economic crises”). But the fact check never offers readers any specifics about the supposed mistakes in addressing the coronavirus threat and how taking those steps would have kept unemployment low.

    The “fact check” gives a thumb’s up to the critique of Trump without any reporting on whether Trump’s actions should reasonably draw blame for the rise in unemployment.

    This type of thing is all too typical of PolitiFact.