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As we see it: COVID and Conspiracies

In the days since the President, First Lady and several White House staff were diagnosed with COVID-19 a number of conspiracy theories have begun to pop up across the internet, spread mostly through social media. They generally follow one of two patterns. 

For those who are critical of the President, the conspiracy theory is that the President, his wife, and his staff aren’t really sick. They are faking positive COVID-19 results, the conspiracists say, for one reason or another. Some say the President is faking illness to get out of further debates, because he’s worried that continuing to debate will drag his polling numbers down. In a similar vein, others are guessing he’s faking it to garner sympathy from the public, in hopes it will increase his support in the weeks leading up to the election. A third theory suggests he’s faking it so he can come out and claim the COVID-19 virus isn’t as bad as it’s been made out to be, that he was right all along about the seriousness of the illness, and that the economy should fully reopen and social distancing restrictions be lifted. 

Still another theory, this one more insidious than the first three, suggests the President will use his diagnosis to try to postpone elections. The claim here is that since he’s too ill to campaign or debate, and contagious until the virus passes, he’ll insist elections need to be postponed so that he can present his case for re-election to the public. He’ll claim anything less would be unfair to the nation’s undecided voters. 

Whatever fertile imagination, or imaginations, hatched these theories, there is no proof to support any of them. While the President had , over the summer, floated the idea of delaying primary elections due to his concerns about fraud related to mail-in ballots, there is nothing to suggest he or the administration currently plan to use his illness as an argument to try to postpone the general election. It isn’t something the President could do unilaterally anyway. Congress would have to approve any changes to Election Day, and that isn’t likely to happen. 

As far as the President faking his illness, if that is the case he would have to have the doctors and staff of Walter Reed working with him on the conspiracy. Given the professionalism of the staff there, some of whom have expressed criticism of the President for still not taking the virus as seriously as they’d like him to, that seems unlikely. There would have to be a number of physicians, nurses, and administrators, among others, involved to perpetrate a hoax of that magnitude. The more people you involve in a conspiracy, though, the more likely it is to be found out. It’s much more likely that when physicians are reporting concerns about the President’s health, they are being sincere. He also looks ill, with a pallor that isn’t typical of his normally bronzed complexion. 

We can’t lend any credence to any of these conspiracy theories coming from those to the left of the President. 

Likewise we can’t support any of the conspiracy theories circulating among supporters of the President, which suggests that he and other prominent Republicans have been purposely targeted for COVID-19 infection by left wing groups. One of those theories suggests that the President was targeted during the debate, and that his microphone and podium were contaminated with live COVID-19 virus. As a result, the theory goes, his wife and staff who work closely with him caught it as well. The only problem with this is that, besides being generally far fetched, it doesn’t fit the incubation cycle of the virus, which suggests the President was likely already infected prior to the debate.

Another suggests that the President – and other prominent Republican lawmakers – were targeted with infected nasal swabs by the same shadowy “left wing” conspirators. According to this theory their tests came back positive because they were given the live virus during the testing process. This theory, like the infected microphone theory, ignores the incubation period for the virus or the logistics involved in infecting either swabs or other items in the President’s presence. It also assumes a serious breach of ethics by doctors or other medical staff who ignored their Hippocratic oaths to “do no harm” for political reasons. 

These other issues aside, what’s more likely to be true? That someone infected a microphone or a sealed nasal swab? Or that the President and other lawmakers who have eschewed masks picked up and spread the virus among themselves? 

We know what Occam’s Razor says. And we find these conspiracy theories, from both sides, to be ridiculous and disrespectful – to everyone who has contracted the virus and the families of those who have lost loved ones to it. 

They also assume way more organization and secrecy than is likely. Anyone who’s ever worked on a big project can tell you how hard it is to organize and to keep people from talking about it. 

We urge you to think twice before sharing any of these unlikely conspiracies in your social media sphere, and please, wear your masks in public; for yourself, your family, and for others.

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