Video misrepresents journalists’ comments in White House briefing room
CLAIM: Video caught comments between Fox News and New York Times journalists revealing they believe COVID-19 was a “hoax.”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A video feed that was actively recording the White House briefing room captured an exchange between Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts and New York Times photographer Doug Mills, saying COVID-19 was a “hoax” and “we’ve all been vaccinated,” but the comments were taken out of context. Roberts told The Associated Press the comments were made in jest.
THE FACTS: Before the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Monday, Roberts told Mills about a newly released study from the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County. According to the study, the number of coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County was much more widespread than initially reported, meaning there would be a lower death rate.
In the video, Mills greets Roberts. “What do you know, buddy?” Mills asks Roberts, who responds, “You can take off the mask, the case fatality rate is 0.1 to 0.3, according to USC.”
“Really? That’s reassuring,” Mills remarks. “Everyone here’s been vaccinated anyway.”
The study conducted April 10-11 by the county and the University of Southern California estimated that approximately 4.1% of the county’s adult population of eight million has antibodies to the virus, the AP reported. When adjusted for margin of error, the infection rate ranged from 2.8% to 5.6%, or about 220,000 to 440,000 adults.
On Tuesday, a video clip of the conversation between Roberts and Mills circulated widely on social media posts suggesting it revealed the virus was a hoax and that the media was in on it.
“The same media that tells you the world needs to be shut down but behind the scenes, they really don’t believe what they tell you,” one post stated. An Instagram user shared the video stating: “Ladies and gentlemen, you have been lied to. The question is: what is the reason for the full-scale military deployment worldwide?”
One post alone had nearly one million views, falsely identifying Mills as a “tech.” The post falsely claimed: “Very Interesting exchange Caught on (GST HOT MIC) between FAKE NEWS @FoxNews @johnrobertsFox and a FAKE NEWS Tech at Todays White House Press Briefing!”
Roberts told the AP in a phone interview that the comments were “sardonic gallows humor.” He said that he and Mills are friends and that Mills wears a mask every day.
Roberts also stressed that both he and Mills are treating the virus seriously, and do not believe in conspiracy theories around the virus.
Mills told the AP in an email that there is no vaccine, and the conversation was a “total joke.”
“Clearly no one has been vaccinated,” Roberts said, adding that there is no vaccine available for COVID-19 yet.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536