Fact-checking a California reopen protest video

A Facebook video shows a California doctor giving a speech filled with inaccuracies at a protest demanding local officials reopen the economy.

May 18, 2020 and
Category: Fact-Checking

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Protests calling for state and federal governments to reopen have become a source of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

A May 7 clip on Facebook shows a doctor giving a six-minute speech about California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. In it, the doctor makes several misleading claims about the severity of the virus and the efficacy of social distancing and face masks.

“My name is Dr. Jeff Barke and I’m here representing thousands of physicians across the country whose voices are being silenced because we don’t agree with the mainstream media and the experts who are telling us what to do,” he says at the start of the video.

Using Google Maps, PolitiFact determined that the video was recorded on the steps of the Riverside County government office in downtown Riverside, California. Protesters congregated in the city, which is about 55 miles east of Los Angeles, on May 5 to demand that county supervisors lift local stay-at-home orders. Barke is a physician who runs a primary-care concierge service in Newport Beach, California.

While some of Barke’s claims are accurate, several of them are misleading or false. PolitiFact fact-checked five of them.

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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.