CNN Report on Test Kits Refutes Biden Statement—and Its Own Fact-Check

(Updated) Biden picked up false claim that Trump admin turned down WHO test kits

Democratic presidential hopeful former vice president Joe Biden / Getty Images
March 18, 2020

A new CNN report refutes its own correspondent's approving fact check of Joe Biden's claim the Trump administration "refused" the World Health Organization's offer of coronavirus testing kits.

CNN fact-checker Holmes Lybrand rated Biden's statement at Sunday's Democratic primary debate to be correct at the time. But CNN reported Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO never discussed the latter providing tests to the United States, and WHO did not offer it tests.

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told CNN this was not unusual, since the United States has the capacity to manufacture its own diagnostics. The CDC developed its own version of the coronavirus test on Jan. 17, the same day WHO published a German protocol for countries to use in manufacturing their own tests.

While the United States has struggled to test for the virus on a mass scale, that still contradicts Biden's comment on Sunday, when he told debate moderator Jake Tapper, "Look, the World Health Organization offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now. We refused them. We did not want to buy them. We did not want to get them from them. We wanted to make sure we had our own."

Lybrand wrote in CNN's live fact-checking blog of the debate, "Biden is correct. The U.S., along with other countries, chose not to take test kits from WHO -- and instead decided to make their own."

Lybrand has since updated the fact check to show Biden was wrong, although it is unclear when.

"The Facts First finding on Biden's claim about the US and WHO testing kits was corrected after additional reporting that showed the WHO did not offer coronavirus tests to the CDC," he wrote.

PolitiFact rated the same statement by Biden "Mostly False" in a report on Monday.

"No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told PolitiFact. "This is consistent with experience since the United States does not ordinarily rely on WHO for reagents or diagnostic tests because of sufficient domestic capacity."

It added it is normal for countries like the United States with "advanced research capabilities" to develop measures they trust.

The Biden campaign pointed to a March 6 Politico article about WHO shipping the German tests to nearly 60 countries, but there is no mention in the article of the United States "refusing" the test.

UPDATED: Thursday, 2:28 P.M.: This article was updated to show CNN amended its fact check to show Biden was incorrect.

Published under: CNN , Joe Biden