A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Facebook and Twitter took action against President Trump and his campaign Wednesday night over a video posted in which he falsely claimed that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus. And it wasn’t just any video that Trump shared with his supporters. It was a clip from his morning chat with “Fox & Friends.”
Both Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) said that the video violated their standards. First Facebook (FB) removed the video posted on Trump’s account, and then Twitter (TWTR) took action against a video posted by the Trump campaign.
What is noteworthy is that the action means that — on this issue — the two tech giants have enforced higher standards on their platforms than the Murdoch family has enforced on Fox News. Whereas Twitter and Facebook removed the clip, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” didn’t challenge Trump when he made the false claim on the network’s air. And, Fox News — which didn’t provide me a comment — played Trump’s remarks to its large audience later in the day without a fact-check.
But it really goes even deeper than that. It’s likely that Trump picked up the piece of misinformation about children being “almost immune” to the coronavirus from Fox News, and then simply repeated it back to the network’s morning hosts. If you’ve watched the conservative cable channel, you know that arguments about children not being at high risk for coronavirus have saturated much of its coverage related to schools reopening.
“He regurgitated back to Fox News the same thing he hears on Fox News,” tweeted Angelo Carusone, the head of the progressive watchdog Media Matters. “And now both Facebook and Twitter took the video down for violating [Terms of Service]. Fox News is the problem.”
Trump campaign’s misleading statement
The Trump campaign responded to Facebook and Twitter pulling the video by saying Trump was “stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus.” But that’s not actually what Trump said. The President told “Fox & Friends” that “the fact is” that children are “virtually immune” from the virus. (This part from the “Fox & Friends” interview was also included in the clip he posted to Facebook, a spokesperson for the social media platform confirmed to me.)
As Daniel Dale noted in CNN’s fact-check of Trump’s claim, “While children are, on the whole, less likely to get seriously ill or die from the coronavirus than adults are, they are certainly not ‘immune’; children get infected, transmit the virus, and do sometimes get seriously ill or die.”
“They can’t even live up to the social media standards”
In an impassioned monologue, Chris Cuomo asked, “How can we deal with a president who lies so much?” Cuomo noted that the “BS claims” from the President are “so violative” of the “decency standard” from Facebook and Twitter, that the platforms had to take action.
“They can’t even live up to the social media standards,” Cuomo said. “How is he able to live up to the standard that we demand right now? He violated their standards, he’s violating us — especially our kids.”