Biden Has Earned 11 Pinocchios From Fact-Checkers During Coronavirus Crisis

Joe Biden
Getty Images
April 3, 2020

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been dinged several times by fact-checkers over claims he has made during the coronavirus crisis, including a total of 11 "Pinocchios" from the Washington Post.

Over the course of three weeks between March 13 and April 3, Biden was fact-checked five separate times for making false or misleading claims concerning the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic.

A Washington Post fact check on March 13 awarded Biden four Pinocchios, the fact-checker's most severe rating, for two manipulated videos the Biden campaign circulated.

The first video claimed to show Trump at a Feb. 28 rally saying Democrats were turning the coronavirus into "their new hoax" after they failed to bring Trump down through impeachment. Biden's video was edited to make it appear that Trump was calling the coronavirus a hoax. Trump, however, was referring to the Democrats' attempts to blame him for the virus, not the virus itself.

The second Biden campaign video showed Trump saying the phrase "the American Dream is dead," which the Post found was taken out of context and missing the second part of Trump's statement where he promised to "bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before."

Another Post fact check on March 24 gave the campaign four Pinocchios after adviser Ron Klain accused Trump of silencing Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The president and the White House sent a clear message to scientists in the government—there would be a price for speaking out and speaking up," he said in a campaign video released on March 21.

Messonnier continued to hold routine phone briefings with reporters in the weeks after she raised the alarm about the virus at a press conference with Trump.

Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote that Klain's framing was "simply wrong." Messonnier's alarming rhetoric did irritate Trump, but the idea that she was silenced was a "false narrative," Kessler added.

At a CNN town hall on March 27, Biden repeated an earlier claim that Trump had eliminated the White House pandemic office. He also claimed Trump made "no effort" to put any pressure on Chinese president Xi Jinping and reduced the CDC's staff in China prior to the outbreak. Biden added he called for China to admit medical experts from the United States when the outbreak in China was still in its early stages.

The Post's fact check gave Biden three Pinocchios due to his imprecise language. The Trump administration sought access for CDC experts, and the administration told the Post that Trump offered to send experts to China to help with the outbreak. Biden also did not specifically call for experts to be sent until late February.

Those weren't the only times Biden has been fact-checked for rhetoric during the crisis.

On March 15, during the Democratic presidential debate, Biden falsely claimed that Trump refused coronavirus testing kits from the World Health Organization. The kits were never offered in the first place. PolitiFacrated his statement "Mostly False." CNN, after initially deeming his statement factual, retracted its rating after a report by the Washington Free Beacon.

On March 19, Biden first tweeted that Trump "eliminated" the pandemic response team. The Washington Post fact check found this claim "overstated" due to the fact that the global health directorate was folded into another office under the guidance of former national security adviser John Bolton. Citing "dueling narratives," however, it didn't give a rating to Biden's claim.