Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is receiving “four Pinocchios” for his claim about the number of children who are in ICU beds after contracting COVID-19.
In recent weeks, the former governor has repeatedly claimed that 1,142 children are in ICU beds because they contracted the virus
During an Oct. 24 campaign event with former President Barack Obama, McAulliffe claimed, “Here in Virginia, you should understand, 1,142 of our children have been in hospitals because they got covid.”
The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted that McAuliffe has made the handling of the pandemic one of the main focuses of his campaign. However, he “frequently touts numbers — often wrong numbers about the impact on children.”
“When we first queried the McAuliffe campaign about his figures, we were told it was a slip of the tongue. Okay, we understand that, and so we passed on a fact check. But then his tongue kept slipping,” Kessler added.
He went on to note that the fact-check team “became interested in this issue when McAuliffe in the second and final debate on Sept. 28 said that there were 8,000 coronavirus cases ‘yesterday in Virginia.’”
“But when we checked the records, you had to go back to January to find a single day when a combination of confirmed and probable cases in Virginia got close to 8,000. On Sept. 27, there were fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases,” he explained.
Kessler went on to explain that debate was on a Tuesday, and McAuliffe’s campaign said he was referencing weekend numbers that were released on that Monday. The fact-checker noted, “The new caseload between Friday morning and Monday morning was 7,987 on Sept. 27 and 7,762 on Oct. 4.”
He admitted that citing weekend numbers “in this fashion” could “leave the misleading impression he was talking about a one-day number. But we got busy with other stuff and chose not to do a fact check.”
“And what about McAuliffe’s Oct. 7 comment that 1,142 children were in ICU beds? That number seemed totally off-kilter,” Kessler wrote. “The McAuliffe campaign said that he simply misspoke. Okay, we moved on.”
“This phrasing suggests that McAuliffe is talking about not a daily figure, as he frequently indicated — but a total since the beginning of the pandemic. That certainly would be closer to reality […] Why has McAuliffe repeatedly used a higher number than that? Good question. A spokesman for his campaign did not respond to emails and text messages over a period of four days.”
While Kessler said the “occasional misspeak” is understandable “especially in the heat of a campaign,” it has “happened too many times for McAuliffe’s language to be an accident.”
“He repeatedly mentions a weekend number for cases, but suggests it’s a one-day figure. He offers wildly inflated figures for child hospitalizations, suggesting again that these were daily figures and claiming twice that these many children were in ICUs. Instead, he appears to be citing a figure for all of the children hospitalized with covid-19 in Virginia over the past 19 months — which is still inflated,” he added.
Finally, Kessler wrote, “The pandemic will continue to be a serious policy challenge for the next Virginia governor, but there’s no reason for McAuliffe to hype the numbers. He earns Four Pinocchios.”
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