Election 2020

Mistake or Messaging? Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Say MILLIONS of Americans Died From COVID-19

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has repeatedly grossly exaggerated the number of Americans who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. He inflated the number by a factor of 1,000. Perhaps the first time Biden said that 120 million Americans — as opposed to 120,000 — had died of COVID-19 represented a verbal slip, an innocent mistake. Then Biden did it again. Last week, Biden running mate Kamala Harris did exactly the same thing twice.

This is beginning to look like a pattern. Biden has repeatedly substituted “million” for “thousand,” and in each case, the gross exaggeration bolsters his argument on an issue.

In September 2019, Biden promised his tax credit for child care costs would “put 720 million back in the workforce.” That would be mighty impressive, considering there are only roughly 330 million Americans — men, women, and children. At the time, I gave Biden a pass for that one, but looking back, it seems the first in a pattern of exaggerations.

While Americans would not seriously believe Biden’s policy would get 720 million women back into the workforce, the exaggeration emphasized the benefits of Biden’s policy.

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In February 2020, Biden claimed that “150 million people have been killed since 2007, when Bernie [Sanders] voted to exempt gun manufacturers from liability. More than all the wars — including Vietnam — from that point on!” This was a grotesque lie and exaggeration. In 2017, NBC News reported that 1.53 million people — one hundred times less than Biden’s statement — died from gunshots since 1968, not since 2007, while only 1.2 million service members have been killed in every war in American history.

As The Washington Post reported, this is a facile comparison. The CDC counts all deaths from guns, from murders to justifiable homicies to accidents and even to suicides. It is hardly proof that the federal government should eviscerate the Second Amendment and confiscate Americans’ legally-owned firearms.

As in the first example, Biden’s exaggeration here was politically useful — he made it seem like the problem he wanted to solve was bigger than it actually is.

This past June, Biden began the coronavirus death toll exaggerations. During a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, the Democrat said, “Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID.”

Biden had consistently condemned President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Whether or not he intended to exaggerate the COVID-19 death toll, the exaggeration was politically useful.


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In a speech on the Supreme Court last month, Biden again exaggerated the coronavirus death toll by a factor of 1,000. “It’s estimated that 200 million people have died, probably by the time I finish this talk,” he said.

At the time, the COVID-19 death toll was nearly 200,000, not 200,000,000.

Last Thursday, Kamala Harris got in on the exaggeration action. “We’re looking at over 220 million Americans who just in the last several months died,” she said at a campaign stop in Charlotte, N.C.

On Saturday, Harris repeated the exaggeration. “We are in the midst of a public health epidemic that has taken the lives of over 220 million Americans in just the last several months,” she said.

These exaggerations appear to have escaped the notice of fact-checkers.

Biden’s notorious gaffes have illustrated that his mental acuity has perhaps taken a bit of a dive in recent years (he is 77, after all). Any such explanation cannot apply to Kamala Harris, however.

Campaigning is hard work, and it is not impossible that these six overrought and politically useful exaggerations could be the result of exhaustion.

However, when Kamala Harris starts repeating the “millions dead” lie that Biden has said more than once, it’s beginning to look like messaging.

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