September 3, 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.

Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned the danger of folks with large platforms — NBA players, specifically, in that email — sharing misinformation with millions of followers? Well, that goes double for, say, the president of the United States.

Last weekend, President Donald Trump shared two posts that falsely claimed COVID-19 deaths are not as high as previously reported.

The posts claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 death numbers to show that only 9,210 Americans have died from the virus. Twitter removed the first tweet for violating its rules. Another post from Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser for the Trump campaign, linked to a story from the Gateway Pundit, a conservative news site, making the same claim. That tweet was still up as of publication.

The tweets misconstrue federal data on COVID-19 victims.

As of Aug. 31, the CDC reported that 182,622 Americans have died since the start of the pandemic — and some estimates put the death toll even higher. The agency told us that the vast majority of deaths involving COVID-19 can be attributed to the virus.

Claims that the CDC adjusted its COVID-19 death numbers appear to have originated on Facebook before making their way to Trump’s Twitter feed, according to VineSight, an organization that uses artificial intelligence to surface potential misinformation. Several posts have been shared thousands of times.

“CDC just backpedaled (quietly) and adjusted the US Covid deaths from 153,504 to 9,210,” said Amiri King, a social media influencer and CBD salesman, in an Aug. 31 post that shows a screenshot of his own tweet, which was also deleted. “Admitting that their numbers were so f—ed that they were off by a whopping 94%.”

Click here to read the full fact-check.

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Do you know any first-time voters? Or is it the first time you plan to vote? The MediaWise Voter Project has put together Prep for the Polls — a 10-day text-message course that will prepare any first-time voters for the election. In it, you’ll learn how to spot election misinformation — or disinformation — and how to get the download on all the issues. Register here»

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

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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