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A Fox News host tried to fact-check Trump live about the coronavirus

Updated 3 years ago
Coronavirus death rate
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
  • President Trump got into a bit of a tiff over the coronavirus death rate during an interview over the weekend with Fox News Sunday.
  • President Trump was under the impression that the US has one of the lowest coronavirus death rates in the world.
  • Actually, the opposite is true, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

President Trump gave a rambling and headline-making interview to Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace over the weekend, which included among other tidbits his tense back-and-forth with Wallace over the difficulty of a cognitive test the president recently took. (Read our previous coverage here about the test Trump took at Walter Reed Medical Center, which actually is supposed to measure cognitive decline — not intelligence).

Meantime, there was another revealing exchange between Trump and the host that underscores how disconnected the leader of the free world apparently is from the reality of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the US. Long story short, the president thinks that while the coronavirus numbers in the US may be pretty terrible, at least we have one of the lowest and coronavirus death rates in the world. Of course, the complete opposite is true.

Here’s part of the exchange:

Trump: “I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest, mortality rate anywhere in the world. (To White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany) Do you have the numbers, please? I heard we had the best mortality rate.”

McEnany hands him a piece of paper.

Trump: “Number one low mortality rate … (to Wallace) You said we had the worst mortality rate in the world, and we have the best.”

In reality, on a per capita basis, the US is in the top 10 of nations with the most deaths from the coronavirus.

First, the numbers. According to Johns Hopkins University, almost 3.9 million coronavirus cases have been identified in the US, along with more than 141,000 deaths. Plotted by country, here’s what that coronavirus death trend in the US looks like, per CNN:

Trump was apparently looking at data showing something else — the case fatality rate, which is derived by simply dividing the number of deaths by the number of cases. That metric doesn’t offer as clear of a picture of what’s going on in a nation relative to the coronavirus, because it relies on how much (or little) coronavirus testing that a country is doing.

If a country only tests the sickest people, versus one that tests both sick people and asymptomatic people, the case fatality number won’t make for as elegant a comparison. Nonetheless, the US is among the top 60 countries in the world when measuring by the case fatality rate.

Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.