During the Democratic debate on Sunday, Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of refusing coronavirus test kits from the World Health Organization (WHO). This accusation was flat-out false, but it was not the first time Biden has lied to politicize the coronavirus crisis.
“No, look, the World Health Organization offered — 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,” Biden said. “We did not want to get them from them. We wanted to make sure we had our own. I think he said something like we have the best scientists in America, or something to that effect.”
This claim appears to have come from a Facebook meme based loosely on a Politico story. On March 6, Politico reported that virologists in Berlin produced the first diagnostic test for the disease, and by the end of February, the WHO had shipped tests to nearly 60 countries. “The United States was not among them,” the report noted. “Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question…”
PolitiFact helped dispel Biden’s misinformation, rating his claim “false.” The U.S. did not “reject” the WHO test because the WHO never offered it to the CDC in the first place.
“The countries WHO helped are ones that lack the virology lab horsepower that exists across the United States,” PolitiFact reported. The WHO’s American arm said it focused 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,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told PolitiFact. “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.”
Biden’s claim that the WHO has its own testing kits is also false.
On March 7, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn made it clear that there were no WHO “testing kits.”
“We’ve seen reports about a WHO test, and that WHO is distributing a diagnostic test to countries. And I want to be really clear about this: We’ve been in constant contact with WHO. The WHO does not have its own test that it is distributing globally. It has only posted on its website protocols from some test developers, including our own CDC,” Hahn said, the Federalist’s Margot Cleveland noted. He clarified that the WHO doesn’t actually develop tests, but it does “act as an information exchange.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained that the “test kit” the WHO put out was not its own, but rather the “recipe protocol for a lab-developed test” from the Berlin test. “That’s what’s often been called—misleadingly—the WHO test,” Azar explained. The WHO has also distributed the CDC’s recipe, for what it’s worth.
This is far from the first time Biden has lied about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. On March 3, he tweeted a campaign ad that falsely suggested Trump had called the coronavirus itself a “hoax” — and even The Washington Post called him out on it. Last month, Biden claimed that Trump had cut funding to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. However, the funding has actually increased due to Congress deciding to overrule Trump’s proposed budget cuts.
While it is likely impossible to entirely prevent the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump has acted decisively in the midst of the crisis. Experts have admitted that the president’s actions saved lives and Trump’s public-private partnership marks a strong contrast with the government-focused health care approaches supported by Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR).
Meanwhile, Biden has plagiarized Trump’s policies, claiming them as his own while suggesting the president has not responded well to the crisis. Perhaps worse, Biden chose a coronavirus advisor who urged the elderly — those at greatest risk from the coronavirus — to avoid flu shots, vaccines, and even antibiotics because he claimed their lives are not worth living past the age of 75. Biden’s advisor also unwittingly explained why the former VP — himself age 77 — should not become president.
While Trump acts against the coronavirus, Biden spreads lies and misinformation, claims Trump’s actions as his own plan, and taps advisors who have a reckless disregard for the lives of the elderly. Is this guy really the best Democrats can do?
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.