Fox News is pushing a conspiracy theory that the number of cornavirus deaths are being exaggerated by medical professionals (to hurt President Donald Trump’s re-election).
Fox News personalities such as Tucker Carlson (video below), Brit Hume and Harris Faulkner (video above) are claiming that many coronavirus victims had pre-existing conditions when they died so that they don’t actually count as coronavirus deaths.
Carlson claimed on April 8 that pneumonia deaths were likely being counted as coronavirus deaths to inflate the number of coronavirus deaths:
For the last few weeks, that [pneumonia] number has come in far lower than at the same moment in previous years. How could that be? Well, it seems entirely possible that doctors are classifying conventional pneumonia deaths as covid-19 deaths. That would mean this epidemic is being credited for thousands of deaths that would have occurred if the virus never appeared here.
The Washington Post notes the flaws in this illogical claim:
The most recent CDC data on this show the number of pneumonia deaths is indeed lower in recent weeks than it has been in previous years. The numbers have been between 3,200 and 3,500 per week since the coronavirus arrived in the United States in January. (The most recent week shows 2,930, but with 84 percent of expected deaths reported, meaning that number should rise.) Generally in this period, the numbers are between 3,500 and 4,500.
But if you look closely, you’ll notice the data are old. The last week for which we have any data is the week ending March 21. Why is that March 21 date important? By that point, the United States had logged just 385 deaths from the coronavirus. There’s no way “thousands” of pneumonia deaths were being wrongly classified as deaths from the coronavirus because there weren’t even 1,000 coronavirus deaths logged.
What’s more, the CDC in guidance published over the weekend said pneumonia deaths are now increasing sharply. “The percent of deaths due to pneumonia has increased sharply since the end of February, while those due to influenza increased modestly through early March and declined this week. This could reflect an increase in deaths from pneumonia caused by non-influenza associated infections including covid-19.”
Fox News personality Brit Hume used the same conspiracy theory with new twist that included prostate cancer:
Very informative thread. Explains why NY’s Covid 19 fatality numbers are inflated. They dont’t distinguish between those who die with the disease and those who die from it. https://t.co/Hbdud2ppSI— Brit Hume (@brithume) April 1, 2020
The Washington Post debunked Hume’s claim as well:
The problem with Hume’s prostate cancer comparison is that prostate cancer, unlike viruses, occurs over a long time. So it’s logical that a large number of people who have prostate cancer die with it rather than of it, because they will have a lot of time to contract other deadly ailments.
With the coronavirus, the odds that any large number of people who have it are dying in the brief period in which they contract it — but in which the virus itself isn’t a cause — is highly illogical.
Much more logical is that they had conditions that were exacerbated by just such a respiratory disease, which is something health officials have been saying for months. If someone has had a lung ailment for years and suddenly dies within a week of getting the coronavirus, what are the odds that they would have died during that specific week without contracting the virus? Very slim.