May 8, 2020

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

You’ve may have already seen it dozens of times — I know I have. Friends and family have been sending me a video called “Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19,” and I’ve seen it posted across social media platforms for the last several days.

The video is a deep dive into conspiracy theories about COVID-19, public health and the pharmaceutical industry. It discusses Dr. Anthony Fauci’s efforts to combat the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and Bill Gates’ support of vaccination efforts around the world.

The film was produced by Elevate, a California production company run by Mikki Willis, who has more than 30,000 subscribers on YouTube. The video is billed as part one of an upcoming documentary.

Many of Willis’ videos highlight conspiracy theories. In one clip, Willis’ young son says Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself. In another, Willis floats a debunked conspiracy that the coronavirus was “intentionally released.”

In “Plandemic,” Willis interviews Dr. Judy Mikovits, a former scientist at the National Cancer Institute. Mikovits, before her work was discredited, was lauded in the late 2000s for her research on chronic fatigue syndrome. Mikovits makes several claims that are either unsupported or outright false.

Several readers asked PolitiFact to look into Willis’ documentary. Copies of the film have been removed from YouTube and Facebook for violating the platforms’ community guidelines, but they still received tens of millions of views.

PolitiFact fact-checked eight of Mikovits’ most misleading claims in the film.

MediaWise admitted to International Fact-Checking Network

You’ve probably seen the Instagram-based fact-checks in this newsletter from the MediaWise Fact-Checking Network. Well, now the network is legit — MediaWise is now a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network. That means more tools and resources for stamping out COVID-19 misinformation. Check it out»

Ingraham claims there’s “no real scientific basis” for social distancing

Experts in public health and epidemiology said Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s claim is wrong. There’s plenty of science behind social distancing. Get the facts»

Ad claims “Trump bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street”

The Lincoln Project’s “Mourning in America” ad is wrong to say that coronavirus relief legislation didn’t support ordinary small businesses. The CARES Act included the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to support smaller employers. Read more»

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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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  • Well as a news organization and teaching facility I am appalled you take money from Google and Facebook. What do you tell your journalists and students about their blatant censorship? A number of your news articles i have read have the discrediting tone in the first sentence. And your links go to the same type of websites. You folks should be ashamed of yourselves. Almost like you are forced to do this dirty work by Google and Facebook. Time and time again just follow the money and truth will be found.

  • We’ve seen this hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the past 3 years of trump’s administration; blatant lies presented as facts. I am appalled, often bewildered as to how this can be in the United States of America. Two facts are foundation to this epidemic of falsity: #1) Since the Reagan administration de-funding of public school education and the elimination of wide-spread college/university grant monies, our education system has gone from being #1 (since the 1950s until 1980) to 8th when Reagan left office. Today it is 25th, or 27th depending on whose metrics you use. To spread lie, disinformation, propaganda you need uneducated, under-educated and mis-educated populations. Normally this is in 3rd world countries. It is now USA. I was told back in 1984 that this was the “long goal” of the GOP… apparently it has produced in spades.
    #2: You need a concerted effort on the part of those with power & the media means to spread the lies. This isn’t just “he said/she said” this is outright lies mixed with enough credibility to make the listener believe them. That takes agenda. The GOP has to spread division and discord or they would never win another election. Their political platform gives the common USA citizen ZERO. It is built to give the wealth, power and resources to the top 1%. The bottom 99% get threats, lies and death. (Vote for Democrats/environmentalists/liberals and we shut down the plant and move it to Mexico and you lose your job.)
    There we are.
    Why doesn’t the Democratic party push back on this agenda? Because they have no plan to make anything better. Well, except for their voting blocks who they tell they will “Robin Hood” the GOP and the mega-corporations. Which only solidifies the GOP’s claims and threats.
    I’ll run for president and fix the whole mess. Let me know if you support what I’ve said so far.