PolitiFact Tags Biden 'Mostly False' on Virus Testing, CNN Says He's 'Correct'

March 18th, 2020 10:36 AM

In a review of Sunday night's Democrat debate on CNN, PolitiFact tagged Joe Biden as "Mostly False" when he claimed the Trump administration refused to accept coronavirus testing kits from the World Health Organization. Oddly, CNN's own "fact checkers" ruled that "Biden is correct." [Hat tip: Johnny Dollar]

Here's what he said: "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."

PolitiFact's Jon Greenberg and Victoria Knight reported on Monday the Biden campaign used a Politico article that reported WHO shipped coronavirus tests to nearly 60 countries at the end of February, but the U.S. was not among them.

That is technically correct, but it suggests that the United States would have been on the list under any circumstances.

The countries WHO helped are ones that lack the virology lab horsepower that exists across the United States. The outreach work by the Pan American Health Organization is a case in point.

The group is WHO’s arm in the Americas. It conducted trainings and sent materials to conduct tests to 29 nations. The list included Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and many others.

The group said it focused most of its efforts on "countries with the weakest health systems."

"No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States," said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris. "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."

In fact-checking their own debate, CNN's Holmes Lybrand (formerly with The Weekly Standard) ruled:

Facts First: Biden is correct. The US, along with other countries, chose not to take test kits from WHO – and instead decided to make their own.

CNN's source was a Washington Post story which reported in passing “Leading laboratories in Germany published their own version, which was adopted by the World Health Organization. Many countries, including the United States, developed their own tests.”

This is no way suggests the Trump team "refused" an offer from the WHO.

We have rated PolitiFact's verdict here as "The Real Deal." (Consider CNN "Deeply Distorted," but we're not posting two verdicts on one post!) For more, see our Fact-Checking the Fact Checkers page.