Sunday, 22 March 2020

FACT-CHECK: The Washington Post distorts Dr. Fauci's words in order to defend Italy's 'open borders' policies

In a fact-check, the Washington Post gave Dr. Anthony Fauci four "Pinocchios" on Friday for claiming that Italy's lax travel policies contributed to its ongoing coronavirus crisis. But the Post's fact-check is wrong.

What did Dr. Fauci say?

As TheBlaze reported, in an interview on Thursday with NBC's Lester Holt, the coronavirus expert was asked what the United States and Italy (now considered the epicenter of the pandemic) were doing differently that may result in disparate outcomes for the two countries.
In his response, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases credited President Donald Trump's various executive orders that suspended travel from Europe and China with preventing an Italian-level crisis in America:
Our shutting off travel from China and, more recently, travel from Europe, has gone a long way to not seeding very, very intensively the virus in our country. Unfortunately, Italy did not do that. They had an open border, they let people in.

The Post's misleading fact-check

The Post claimed that Fauci was "simply wrong." He isn't.
To debunk his claim, fact-checker Glenn Kessler honed in on a fragment of Dr. Fauci's comment and interpreted it to mean he was suggesting that Italy had not cut off travel from China.
Italy's prime minister took immediate action, declaring a state of emergency and announcing a ban effective Jan. 31 on all flights to and from China to Italy, with no exceptions. He announced this step even though the WHO advisory recommended against travel restrictions. The ban on flights also extended to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The announcement added that anyone on a flight to Italy would face health checks upon arrival.
Indeed, Italy and the U.S. announced travel restrictions on China at around the same time. However, in his MSNBC appearance, Dr. Fauci was clearly referring to both countries' policies toward European travel and not just limits on Chinese travel. The Washington Post even acknowledged in its fact-check that Italy has not closed its doors to Europe.

"Italy's borders with the rest of Europe did remain open," wrote the Washington Post, which characterized Italy's policies as "more sweeping steps than the United States."
The Post even added that "U.S. borders with Europe were open for many more weeks as well." Except this is not true.

Trump announced a ban on European travel during a March 11 Oval office address. Four days later, he expanded it to include Ireland and the U.K. This is in addition to new restrictions on North American border crossings.

Conversely, according to the New York Times, Italy is still allowing travelers from Europe and most of the rest of the world to enter their country. In fact, aside from suspending flights from China and Taiwan, the only other measure taken by Italian officials on inbound travelers is to require them to pass "temperature screenings" at major airports, which do not prevent asymptomatic coronavirus patients from entering Italy.
Of course, it is no secret that Italy's loose points of entry have enabled the pandemic. Even the Italian ambassador to the United States has recognized that his country's porous borders has facilitated the spread of the virus which has killed thousands of his fellow countrymen. "There are so many gates from where the virus might have reached Italy," said Amb. Armando Varricchio on Thursday, according to the Washington Examiner.

What else?

In short, the Post distorted Dr. Fauci's comments in order to downplay the positive impact Trump's policies have had and maintain that Italy's open borders did not contribute to the pandemic. However, Dr. Fauci was clearly referring to both countries' travel policies toward China and Europe. In fact, he specifically mentioned Trump's European travel restrictions vis-a-vis Italy's "open border."

Since Italy does not share a physical border with China, any reasonable person can conclude that Dr. Fauci was comparing the two countries' general travel policies and not just those pertaining to Beijing. A spokesman for the NIAID even explained this to the Post, which decided to run its misleading fact-check anyway.
To paraphrase his jab at Dr. Fauci: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is simply wrong.

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