Friday, April 10, 2020

PolitiFact claims, without evidence, Trump touted chloroquine as a coronavirus cure

Should fact checkers hold themselves to the standards they expect others to meet?

We say yes.

Should fact checkers meet the standards they claim to uphold?

We say yes.

What does PolitiFact say?
(President Donald) Trump has touted chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure in more than a half-dozen public events since March 19.
PolitiFact published the above claim in an April 8, 2020 PolitiSplainer about hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug doctors have used in the treatment of coronavirus patients.

We were familiar with instances where Mr. Trump mentioned hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus sufferers. But we had not heard him call it a cure. Accordingly, we tried to follow up on the evidence PolitiFact offered in support of its claim.

The article did not contain any mention of a source identifying the "half-dozen public events since March 19," so we skipped to the end to look at PolitiFact's source list. That proved disappointing.

We tweeted at the article's authors expressing our dismay at the lack of supporting documentation. Our tweet garnered no reply, no attempt to supply the missing information and no change to the original article.

Of note, when co-author Funke tweeted out a link to the article on April 8 his accompanying description counted as far more responsible than the language in the article itself:

"Here's what you need to know about hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that President Trump has repeatedly touted as a potential COVID-19 treatment."

Does "cure" mean the same thing as "potential treatment" in PolitiFactLand?

We've surveyed Mr. Trump's use of the terms "cure" and "game changer" at the White House website and found nothing that would justify the language PolitiFact used of the president.

What else does PolitiFact say?

The burden of proof is on the speaker, and we rate statements based on the information known at the time the statement is made.
 What if the speaker says "Trump has touted chloroquine or hydroxycloroquine as a coronavirus cure"? Does the speaker still have the burden of proof? If the speaker is PolitiFact, that is?

It looks like the fact-checkers have yet again allowed a(n apparently false) public narrative to guide their fact-checking.