As a super spreader of false information about COVID-19, how many deaths is Donald Trump responsible for? It’s undeniable that he is responsible for American deaths. His ridicule of protective face masks alone is responsible for many people refusing to wear them, resulting in the infection and deaths of both themselves and others.
Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, for the New York Times
Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.
That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
The study, to be released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
[…] To those who have been watching Mr. Trump’s statements, the idea that he is responsible for spreading or amplifying misinformation might not come as a huge shock. The president has also been feeding disinformation campaigns around the presidential election and mail-in voting that Russian actors have amplified — and his own government has tried to stop.
But in interviews, the Cornell researchers said they expected to find more mentions of conspiracy theories, and not so many articles involving Mr. Trump.
Public health experts know that clear, concise and accurate information is the foundation of an effective response to an outbreak of infectious disease. Misinformation around the pandemic is “one of the major reasons” the United States is not doing as well as other countries in fighting the pandemic, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former principal deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration.
“There is a science of rumors. It’s when there is uncertainty and fear,” said Dr. Sharfstein, who teaches on public health crisis communications. In the absence of treatments or vaccines, he said, honest and consistent messaging is essential.
“This is what we need to save lives,” he said. “If it’s not done well, you get far more infections and deaths.”