Fact-checking misinformation about Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis


In the early morning hours after Donald Trump tweeted that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus, misinformation about the president’s condition ballooned on social media.

Facebook users falsely claimed that The Simpsons predicted Trump’s death. A screenshot of a fake fundraising plea from the Trump campaign circulated on Twitter. And some doubted that the president was sick at all, instead theorizing that Trump was faking his diagnosis to get out of future presidential debates.

PolitiFact fact-checked several widely shared falsehoods about Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis. If you see another social media post you want us to fact-check, send it to [email protected]

Theories doubting Trump’s results are unfounded

Overnight, people across the political spectrum tweeted and posted on Facebook with doubt about Trump’s results. Some wondered why they should trust a president who has downplayed the danger of the virus, speculating that a forged positive COVID-19 test could somehow offer him a political advantage.

Supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory claimed that Trump’s positive diagnosis was a hoax portending the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton, saying “it’s a cover for the storm to happen.” (“The storm” is a QAnon term referring to the mass arrest of people who Q followers believe belong to a powerful, cannibalistic pedophile ring.)

RELATED: Trump’s health and COVID-19: Here’s what we know

The speculation and unfounded theories are outweighed by the significant amount of evidence showing that Trump does, in fact, have COVID-19:

  • Sean P. Conley, Trump’s personal physician, released a memo Oct. 2 confirming that the president and first lady tested positive for the virus.
  • Members of Trump’s inner circle and people who attended events with Trump have also tested positive for the virus.
  • The New York Times reported that Trump is experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, and that people who met with him this week thought that he seemed lethargic.
  • The news that Trump contracted the coronavirus clashes with his campaign messaging that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.” In addition, canceling rallies and political events in the month before the Nov. 3. election could hurt his campaign.
Screenshot from Twitter. [ Screenshot from Twitter ]

Trump campaign didn’t send fundraising plea

A fundraising email from Trump’s re-election campaign asking for $421 million is fake — we rated it Pants on Fire!

A screenshot of the bogus email leads with the news of the positive results for the president and first lady. Then, it pivots to a fundraising plea.

“President Trump would like to ask a favor. Will you please DONATE to help him recover from this disease?” says the email, which was shared by Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP. “It is only fair since he has sacrificed millions of dollars as your President.”

The Trump campaign confirmed to us that the email isn’t real. So did the Republican National Committee. One clue that it’s not authentic: The email asks for the exact amount that the New York Times reported Trump owes in loans and other debts.

Screenshot from Facebook. [ Screenshot from Facebook ]

‘The Simpsons’ didn’t predict Trump’s death

Facebook posts claiming that the long-running TV show The Simpsons had featured Trump in a coffin are inaccurate — we rated them Pants on Fire!

That image of Trump purportedly in a coffin in an episode of The Simpsons has been circulating for years and has been debunked. Snopes in February 2017 reported that the image did not appear in The Simpsons, and while its origins are unclear, it appears to have been promoted on the fringe forum website 4chan.

The Simpsons has featured Trump before, but we found no indication that the show aired an episode of him in a coffin.

‘Doomsday planes’ and Trump’s diagnosis are not related

People are speculating that the flight of two “doomsday planes” and Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis are related.

“After Trump tested positive for Covid they scrambled the ‘Doomsday Plane,’” one Facebook post says.

We rated that claim False. Military officials say the two events are not related.

After news broke on Oct. 1 that Hope Hicks, a Trump aide who had been traveling with the president, had tested positive for COVID-19, a man named Tim Hogan tweeted about E-6B Mercury aircrafts that he said appeared on the East and West coasts of the United States.

An E-6B Mercury aircraft is an airborne nuclear command center that’s known as a “Doomsday Plane” because it’s designed to keep the National Command Authority in contact with Naval nuclear forces in a crisis, the Washingtonian explained in a story about the planes. The Navy has 16 such planes and one is often in the air, according to Forbes.

However, U.S. Strategic Command told Business Insider that “these flights were pre-planned missions” and that “any timing to the president’s announcement is purely coincidental.” according to the outlet’s Oct. 2 story.

Screenshot from Twitter. [ Screenshot from Twitter ]

Claim that ‘no prominent Democrats’ have had virus is False

In an Oct. 2 tweet, DeAnna Lorraine said: “Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus but the list of Republicans goes on and on?”

Lorraine is a former Republican congressional candidate who lost a primary bid to represent California’s 12th Congressional District this year.

Lorraine’s claim is wrong. Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have not contracted the coronavirus. But the same could also be said for Republican leaders. Meanwhile, several Democratic mayors and governors have contracted the virus, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Screenshot from Twitter. [ Screenshot from Twitter ]

Trump tweet from 2013 is fake

A fake tweet that makes it look like Trump said in 2013 that he’d “never contract COVID-19” has been shared thousands of times on Twitter.

“There’s always a tweet,” wrote an account dedicated to the show Seinfeld in a post that included a screenshot of the bogus tweet.

Not this time. Trump never tweeted that. Several websites make it easy for anyone to write fake tweets from public Twitter users. The coronavirus did not exist prior to 2019.

RELATED: How to find reliable information about Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis

By Daniel Funke, Noah Y. Kim, Ciara O’Rourke and Miriam Valverde

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