The campaign for Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden received "four Pinocchios" from the Washington Post for recently claiming that President Trump silenced a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who spoke out about the dangers of COVID-19.
The former vice president — who has been noticeably absent from the public eye in recent weeks — posted a video on his Twitter account Monday, in which a campaign aide alleged that CDC official Dr. Nancy Messonnier was sidelined by the Trump administration after raising the alarm about the inevitable spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
"Anyone who raised an alarm about [the dangers] — a red flag — was silenced," Biden campaign aide Ron Klain alleges in the video. "Look no further than Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a career official at the Centers for Disease Control, who was the first to raise the alarm."
"Starting the next day, Dr. Messonnier no longer appeared at public briefings of the White House coronavirus task force. The president and the White House sent a clear message to scientists in the government — there would be a price for speaking out and speaking up," Klain suggested.
Everyone knows that we're facing a real crisis from the coronavirus. But do you know how we got here and what we ne… https://t.co/dPN7ZReMKu— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1584811740.0
The fact-check is in
The Post's Glenn Kessler called the claim "simply wrong" and a "false narrative."
Kessler went on to note that at a news conference the day after Messonnier's comments, Anne Schucat, Messonnier's superior, joined Trump and other coronavirus task force officials.
"If you look closely, you will see there is a woman standing next to Trump. Who's that? Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director — and Messonnier's superior," Kessler said.
Replacing Messonnier with her superior was part of an obvious trend regarding the coronavirus briefings: Trump was ramping up the seriousness of the briefings by involving higher-ranking officials. Kessler said as much in the fact-check column:
At the Feb. 26 news conference, Trump announced that Vice President Pence was taking charge of the task force. (Previously, Azar had run it.) From then on, briefings were held at the White House, not the Department of Health and Human Services. Trump headlines each one. One would presume either the director or deputy director would be onstage with the president, not a lower-ranking official.
"Meanwhile, far from being silenced, Messonnier kept doing her telephone briefings with reporters — on Feb. 28, Feb. 29, March 3 and March 9. She also appeared in four videos shared on social media including on March 14," Kessler added.
"The video created a false narrative. The Biden campaign earns Four Pinocchios," the fact-check concluded.