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Debunked: No, Donald Trump didn't tweet he'd 'never let thousands die' in a pandemic back in 2009

The US President says lots of things. But he didn’t say this.

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AS WE KNOW, aside from the ratings he craves from live television, US President Donald Trump’s favourite mode of communication is Twitter.

As he wages a war of words with US state governors and comes under fierce criticism for his handling of the coronavirus, the president has pinned the blame for the death toll in the US on others.

One of those he’s criticised is former president Barack Obama, taking aim in a tweet this month saying that Obama and his vice president Joe Biden were a “disaster” in handling the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

However, in recent days, a screenshot purporting to be a tweet from Trump from ten years ago which shows him criticising Obama has been shared widely on social media. 

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The tweet says: “Obama’s handling of this whole pandemic has been terrible! As President, ALL responsibility becomes yours during a crisis like this, whether or not you’re entirely to blame. John McCain, and for that matter myself, would never let thousands of Americans die from a pandemic while in office.”

The purported tweet is timestamped at 3.32pm on 23 November 2009.

While – let’s face it – it sounds like something Trump would say, he didn’t.

The tweet is fake. And here’s why.

First of all, in 2009, it wasn’t possible for a tweet to be that long. Before November 2017, posts on Twitter could only be 140 characters long. 

The tweet has well over 140 characters so it couldn’t have been sent in 2009. 

Secondly, there are tools to check whether or not a tweet is legit. Using a Twitter advanced search you can look for posts from a particular account on a particular day. 

Trump never tweeted this on this day, or on any other day. In archives of the president’s tweets, this doesn’t appear either. 

While he may say a lot of things that are questionable, this particular tweet attributed to Donald Trump is simply a fake.

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie  

About the author:

Sean Murray

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