Trump's bogus claims about testing: Monday afternoon, President Trump and at least one major flunky conducted a press event right there in the famous Rose Garden.
The event was held beneath two signs. Each of the signs said this:
AMERICA LEADS THE WORLD IN TESTINGDoes America lead the world in testing? To some extent, it all depends on what the meaning of "leads the world in testing" is!
That said, the blatant misstatements came thick and fast as soon as the president and his flunky started speaking. Early on, the commander in chief said this:
TRUMP (5/11/20): This week, the United States will pass 10 million tests conducted—nearly double the number of any other country. We’re testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, and many other countries—and, in some cases, combined.That first passage was technically accurate, but it was grossly misleading. The second passage was simply false, to the extent that anyone knew what Trump was talking about.
Thanks to the courage of our citizens and our aggressive strategy, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. And we have saved—and if you look at on a per-100,000 basis, we’re at the best part of the pack, right on the bottom. Germany and us are leading the world. Germany and the United States are leading the world—lives saved per hundred thousand.
Soon, though, up jumped Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health and the day's designated flunky. Giroir's statement wasn't simply grossly misleading. We'd have to score this passage as just blatantly false:
GIROIR: I think it’s clear that America does lead the world in testing. I’ll go through some of the charts that show that we lead quantitatively. I will also suggest that we lead in the diversity of tests, which are very important to establish the testing ecosystem to keep America safe. And clearly, as we’ve said multiple times, no one beats America when it comes to quality.Plainly, the admiral seemed to say that the United States "is leading the world" in per capita testing. That, of course, is blatantly false—and surely, the admiral knew that.
So let’s start potentially with the next slide.
This may be hard to see, but if you look at the line on top, that’s the total numbers of tests done by the United States. No other country in the world comes close to the total numbers. Again, as the president has said, today we will top over 9 million tests. And if you look at per capita—everyone talks about South Korea being the standard—today, we will have done more than twice the per capita rate of testing that was accomplished in South Korea. No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing.
In yesterday morning's report, we discussed the Washington Post's utterly hapless, front-page attempt to correct these groaning misstatements. Simply put, the Washington Post was overmatched by this stunningly simple task.
The Times did better than the Post—but how much better? Today, let's review what the Times' news report said.
Due to our computer woes, we hadn't seen the Times' report when we posted yesterday. The Times did much better than the Post, but we couldn't truthfully say that the Times did well.
Below, you see the chunk of the Times report which addressed per capita testing. The Times completely outdid the Post, but did it do sufficiently well?
THREE REPORTERS (5/12/20): The new White House policy on masks came as Mr. Trump tried to reinvent his government’s troubled history on testing for the coronavirus, claiming that the United States was “unmatched and unrivaled” in its testing capacity but ignoring the early failures to provide testing that allowed the virus to spread invisibly for months.Concerning per capita testing, the Times was able to do what the Post amazingly couldn't. The Times was able to report a basic fact:
Declaring once again that “if somebody wants to be tested right now, they’ll be able to be tested,” Mr. Trump said that his administration was working with states to allow them to conduct 12.9 million tests in May, insisting that the testing ability in the United States compares favorably with other countries.
“We are testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland and many other countries,” he said, ignoring countries where testing on a per capita basis is higher, including Germany, Russia, Spain, Canada, Switzerland and at least 20 others, according to statistics compiled by Our World in Data.
Flanked by large posters that proclaimed “America leads the world in testing,” Mr. Trump also declared victory over the pandemic, saying that “we have met the moment and we have prevailed.” Later, under questioning, he revised his comments, saying he only meant to say the country had prevailed on increasing access to testing.
At least two dozen other nations have done more testing than the U.S. on a per capita basis.
The Washington Post hadn't even been able to do that! That said, the Times never mentioned Giroir's flagrant, howling misstatement—and in that passage, they seemed to say that Trump had only been claiming that "the United States compares favorably with other countries" (our emphasis).
As the Times noted, the signage said the U.S. "leads the world," not that we "compare favorably." In the matter of per capita testing, that's what the admiral plainly said.
Continuing, the Times seemed to apply soft soap to other flat misstatements:
THREE REPORTERS (continuing directly): But the president’s claim that “we’ve prevailed on testing” was also premature, even by his government’s own standards. Though the United States has ramped up testing from 150,000 tests per day from a month ago to 300,000 per day recently, the current rate still remains far behind the five million daily target he himself set last month.By any rational standard, Trump's "claim about testing being available for anyone" wasn't simply "misleading." His claim was flatly false.
The president’s claim about testing being available for anyone was also misleading. It is one thing to have enough testing capacity for everyone who is symptomatic or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive, but that is quite different from having enough to provide reassurance to people considering returning to normal life.
The president announced that his administration had begun distributing $11 billion for testing approved by Congress almost six weeks ago and claimed that Germany and the United States were “leading the world in lives saved per 100,000.” That was also an exaggeration.
Germany does have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, at 9.13 deaths per 100,000 people. The United States, by comparison, has a rate of 24.31 deaths per 100,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That is lower than several other European countries, like Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Sweden, but it is also higher than that of Canada, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Iran, Brazil and many others.
Also, as you can see from the Times' own report, his claim about Germany and the United States leading the world wasn't an "exaggeration." It too was flatly false!
Many liberals talk about "lies" in ways they can't hope to support. The Times kept tilting the other way. Can anyone here play this game?
Trump has been making wild misstatements at these briefings on a thoroughly regular basis over the past several months. It's amazing to see how permissive the upper-end press corps has been concerning these constant misstatements.
In the Times, Admiral Giroir escaped any mention; Trump was lathered with varieties of soft soap. The Times did outperform the thoroughly hapless Washington Post. But is it possible that we "rational animals" simply weren't built for these tasks?
What permissiveness looks like: At yesterday's Senate hearing, Mitt Romney directly criticized Giroir for what he said on Monday. Romney was willing to name check the admiral, but the Post and the Times were not!