Politifact VA: Steve Bannon's Coronavirus Claims
Listen to the story and read the full Politifact transcript here.
Speaker: Steve Bannon
Statement: Dr. Anthony “Fauci told us there’s nothing to worry about. That’s his quote, ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’”
Date: April 14
Setting: Radio interview
Former White House advisor Steve Bannon has been defending President Donald Trump against criticism that he was slow in responding to the coronavirus.
Bannon recently lauded Trump’s Jan. 31 order restricting travel with China, the original source of the disease. Bannon said the action came while a key medical adviser - Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases - was saying covid-19 was not a threat to the United States.
“Fauci told us there’s nothing to worry about. That’s his quote, ‘There’s nothing to worry about,’” Bannon said during an April 14 radio interview on The John Fredericks Show, a conservative broadcast based in Portsmouth.
We fact-checked Bannon’s claim. Bannon, a Richmond, cited two instances in late January when Fauci said the disease wasn’t a big threat to Americans. Each time, however, Fauci added that the situation could change.
On Jan. 21 - the day the first covid-19 case was confirmed in the U.S. - Fauci appeared on conservative Newsmax TV. “Bottom line, we don’t have to worry about this one, right?” asked Greg Kelly, the host.
Fauci said, “Obviously, you need to take it seriously and do the kind of things the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Department of Homeland Security is doing. But this is not a major threat to the people of the United States and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.”
So Fauci, in a qualified response said, don't worry “right now;” “you need to take it seriously;” and although “this is not a major threat,” keep an ear open to the CDC and Homeland Security.
On Jan. 26, Fauci gave an interview to John Catsimatidis, a syndicated radio host in New York. “What can you tell the American people about what’s been going on?” Catsimatidis asked. “Should they be scared?”
“I don’t think so,” Fauci said. “The American people should not be worried or frightened by this. It’s a very, very low risk to the United States, but it’s something we, as public health officials, need to take very seriously.”
Fauci reiterated covid-19 “isn’t something the American people need to worry about or be frightened about” because, at the time, it was centered in China and the U.S. could screen travelers from that nation.
But Fauci also twice described the virus as “an evolving situation,” and said, “Every day, we have to look at it very carefully.”
On April 13, PolitiFact National examined a tweet by Republican DeAnna Lorraine, a unsuccessful California congressional candidate. She said, “Fauci was telling people on February 29th that there was nothing to worry about and (covid-19) posed no threat to the US public at large.”
Lorraine’s statement was ruled Mostly False. Although Fauci said that day he saw no immediate need for social distancing, PolitiFact noted that his comments were “filled with caveats that the situation could change.” And contrary to Lorraine’s tweet, Fauci’s didn’t say then “there was nothing to worry about.”
Bannon’s remark is based on Fauci statements from an earlier time with different words and different context.
Bannon said, “Fauci told us there’s nothing to worry about. That’s his quote, ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’”
Fauci did say twice in late January, when there was one reported covid-19 case in the U.S., that American shouldn’t worry about the virus. But Bannon omits an important detail: Both times, Fauci stressed the situation could change.
So we rate Bannon’s statement Half True.
Steve Bannon, Radio interview on The John Fredericks Show, April 14, 2020 (11:07 mark).
Anthony Fauci, Interview on Newsmax TV, Jan. 21, 2020 (4:25 mark).
Fauci, “Radio interview with John Castimatidis,” Jan. 26, 2020.
PolitiFact National, “Tweet amplified by Trump misleads on Fauci’s late-February advice,” April 13, 2020.